Coldplay - 'Mylo Xyloto' (24 Oct '11) // Words: Rajan Lakhani
It’s difficult to review a Coldplay record. You know their records will sell by the bucketload, irrespective of the quality of the material, making critical evaluation almost redundant. But here goes...
Chris Martin has talked up the pop stylings of their fifth studio album, 'Mylo Xyloto' and it’s certainly more vibrant than their recent efforts with its bright synths and electronic beats. In interviews, he has also said it is "based on a love story with a happy ending", inspired by "old school American graffiti" and "the White Rose Movement".
Such pretensions are nothing new for Coldplay, having named their last record after a painting by Frida Kahlo and dressed up as revolutionaries during concerts on their last tour. What also isn’t new is how these pretensions are very much for show, coming across as desperate attempts for critical approval and trying to make the songs more meaningful than they really are.
Symptomatic of Coldplay records, the lyrics leave a lot to be desired and the effort to stick to the concept of the record make them all the more turgid. From the band that brought you "Those who are dead are not dead, they’re just living in my head", they have reached a new low with "I would rather be a comma than a full-stop". Chris Martin has recently admitted what most discerning listeners knew already – his lyrics are a "bit shit".
Worryingly, I found myself struggling to remember anything of any note from hearing the record, with most of the songs failing to make any impression on me. However, there are a couple of stand-out songs which rank alongside the brilliant 'Viva La Vida' and 'Yellow'. Coldplay’s take on RnB, 'Paradise', has a wonderful epic sweep with a chorus fit for arenas, which is followed by 'Charlie Brown', an anthemic song with a hypnotic, ringing guitar line that melds beautifully with the orchestration around it.
'Don’t Let It Break Your Heart' is a fine song, while Rihanna’s entrance on forthcoming single 'Princess Of China' is a breath of fresh air on a distinctly average song. Unfortunately, such moments of surprise are few and far between on this overly long record – the likes of 'Hurts Like Heaven', 'Us Against The World' and 'UFO' are forgettable.
'Mylo Xyloto' finds Coldplay essentially making tweaks to a formula of uplifting, but ultimately hollow, stadium rock, despite the pretensions of recording a love story rock opera. It’s all very inoffensive and polite, the very antithesis of rock music. Some will moan they have not produced a game changer befitting Coldplay’s status a la U2’s 'Achtung Baby' or Radiohead’s 'OK Computer' – my hopes were certainly raised when legendary producer Brian Eno came on board to help them.
Based on the evidence so far, the fact is Coldplay are simply incapable of such a transformation. For all the big gestures, this is on the whole bland, safe, conservative music that you can imagine soundtracking things like party political conferences and reality TV shows such as X Factor – a case of business as usual for Coldplay.
STREAM: Coldplay - Paradise (Radio Edit)
'Mylo Xyloto' is available to purchase at iTunes, Amazon.co.uk and your local record shop.