When I first got Facebook and “Facebook groups” were a thing, I distinctly remember a popular group called ‘Raisins, Stay the Fuck Out of My Cookies!’; days ago, I felt like resurrecting this group but changing the name slightly to, ‘Rihanna, Stay the Fuck Out of My Coldplay!’ That being said, on with my thoughts on Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay’s fifth studio album.
I’ve oft-referred to Coldplay as “one of the fourth horsemen of the mainstream music apocalypse”; alongside contemporaries Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Foo Fighters, these are to me, the four bands that continually make good, consistent records that rarely compromise their own sound and vision of themselves as a band, and they are bands that will be remembered 25, 50 or75 years down the road as doing just that; the albums I think of when referring to these four bands as these ‘great’ carriers-on are respectively, “A Rush of Blood to the Head”, “American Idiot”, “Blood Sugar Sex Magick” and “There Is Nothing Left to Lose.” Coldplay, of these four bands, are probably the most reviled; they have as many fans as brutal critics, and in the past, this fact has made me feel I need to apologize for them, or at the very least, for liking them. That was, until I saw them live; and when I was witnessing their spirited sense of fun and humour and talent on stage (they put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen in my life), I thought, “This band really is who I’ve always thought they were.”
Here they are for round five with a record that seems to yet again, do exactly what Coldplay typically does these days; arena rock with a conscience; an art-house baroque pop opera with all the strings, falsettos, hand claps, electric bass lines, soaring choruses and “oooohs” and “whoa-ohhhs” you would expect, with intoxicatingly catchy and often quite moving results. Nope; nothing new here. Much like this year’s releases by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters, you get what is promised of you, and not too much more; except Rihanna, in the case of Mylo Xyloto…
Martin said before the release of Mylo, that it would be a more intimate and acoustic offering than the complex, striving Viva La Vida (2009). This is true, and false; songs like “Us Against the World” and “Up in Flames” certainly recall classic Coldplay (“The Scientist”, “Trouble”). But producer Brian Eno’s taste for the sublime, big-time art rock prevents this album from being a quiet collection of demos. Instead, we get overstuffed staccato numbers like “Hurts Like Heaven” and electrifying winged rock ballads like “Paradise” and the album’s supremely lovely albeit large, experimental closer, “Up With the Birds”.
Coldplay does make exquisite records. Arguably, they’re best heard (and experienced) on a live stage, perhaps outdoors, where everyone and their dog can raise a lighter (or a cell phone LED screen?) and participate in the chants, oohs, ahs, claps, and cheers, but is that really so bad in the context of this record? I’ve always looked at different records as having different purposes and if the purpose is to have a great fucking time, then so be it; listen up, and have a great fucking time.
The problem I have though, is the degeneration of a band that I once thought was the greatest band in the world.
Here, you can read my thoughts and feelings about what I consider to be the band’s masterpiece, A Rush of Blood to the Head. After listening to Mylo Xyloto this morning, I re-visited Rush of Blood and it is a world of difference between the two albums; Mylo is still Coldplay to the core; it has the same song structures, lyrical content and militant backbeats and energy. However, Rush of Blood and for that matter, Parachutes seem and feel somehow more authentic, less ambitious, less bloated, and more earnest than their ensuing three records including the aforementioned, X & Y, and Viva La Vida. It’s as though having us simply believe in a song and the story and emotion behind it, Chris Martin & Company WANT us to believe in a song and the story and emotion behind it; the last three Coldplay records are produced; they are full of mangled reverb, complex arrangements, bigger choruses, and as many huge successes as failures. If the media is the message, the message is something along the lines of, “we’re not brooding anymore; now we just kick ass in an arena.”
Mylo Xyloto in itself, is still irresistible music; but although I hate to compare artists’ old records with their new ones, it’s just not the same as the beautiful, magical authenticity of the band’s first two aamzing releases. This could be the reason why Coldplay is such a viciously hated and attacked outfit, and it’s too bad that they have degenerated to a great but kinda ‘dead inside’ release. Apparently Mylo Xyloto is a concept record as well – a sort of love story with a happy ending about lovers who face trials and tribulations in some sort of graffiti-laden underworld of poverty and strife. The story is loose, and the songs, while they reflect some of this very basic tale, work on their own, much like Green Day’s first concept record “American Idiot” did back in 2004.
Is it worth mentioning Rihanna again? Her collaboration with the band is to me, a bit insidious, and I wish it hadn’t happened; that aside though, the bombastic “China Princess” is a thumpa-thumpa of electric musical energy that Rihanna aside, isn’t that horrendous.