Sunday, June 29, 2008

Album Review: Coldplay Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

He is a secret Facebook fan of Ringo Starr and washes his hair in Fanta. His pet is the oldest living canary in history and he's too young to remember happy pants. Even so, Marky Mark, Esq., will give any album a fair go...until it gets too mainstream.....

The utterance of the word ‘Coldplay’, inevitably, initiates an unsettling polite and apologetic feeling. The singles we all know – ‘Yellow’, ‘Shiver’, ‘Clocks’, ‘The Scientist’ – almost, without exception, feature an uncertain Chris Martin wailing about how darned sorry he is; making for a smashing MSN name at least. And if they’re not your cup of tea (and let’s face it, tea is the only drink they could ever be), then your mum unquestionably owns something by them, and thinks Gwyneth to be a ‘lovely lass’. Anyway, with their latest release – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends­ – Chris has washed his hands (ha!) of the soft, alternative, falsetto-dominated niceness that has characterized the band since, well, forever, and embarked on a low-register, rockier, French, even experimental (gasp!) journey, with a most peculiar title. And if you thought Ziggy Stardust or The Fly were embodiments of over-famed rock stars stepping out of their stressful, miserable, overpaid lives and into the persona of something ridiculous, just wait until you hear Martin thinking he’s a deposed French king…

So, to the songs. The two singles (which, no doubt you’ve heard if you’ve ever stepped foot near any store or radio) ‘Violet Hill’ and ‘Viva la Vida’ remain the album standouts: the former unlike anything else in the Coldplay repertoire – a thumping monolith of a tune with a not-quite-Jonny Greenwood descending guitar riff; the latter featuring a string breakdown to make you weep like a polite Englishman and think the unthinkable: have the polite boys of rock experimented with anything mind altering?

An ambient-turned rocky instrumental titled ‘Life in Technicolour’ opens the album up. It’s bold for an album with a certain multi-million sale to uphold, however, (though it seems unnecessary), it works. ‘Cemeteries of London’, no doubt a contender for third single, is a return to the medieval war-thumps of Parachutes, while ‘Lost!’ is dreary to the extent that the title’s exclamation mark becomes questionable. ‘42’, complete with an alien-inspired breakdown, is also a return to the old Coldplay we knew and liked a bit, with Martin questioning whether the dead are just ‘living in his head?’. Not exactly Nietzsche, but nice nevertheless.

‘X and Y’ may have been somewhere between average and fecal, but ‘Viva la Vida etc.’ is oddly intriguing and, to be honest, brilliant. Unsurprisingly, the Coldplay nay-saying (of which I’ve been guilty) has slowly disintegrated since its release, and, somehow, the soft, polite and apologetic style we all grew sick off has become cool again. So get yourself a copy of ‘Viva la blah blah blah’, turn to your beautiful Academy Award winning wife and say ‘sorry’.

1 comment:

  1. This is the only Coldplay album that's been appealing.