Track By Track: Coldplay — Mylo Xyloto

Coldplay, Mylo XylotoBecause I dread the thought of writing yet another album review where I spend hundreds of words trying to frame an album in the proper context, or where I try to find yet another way to write about chord progressions, I’m just going to take it one song at a time and share my first impressions. So here we go with Coldplay’s fifth and newest album, Mylo Xyloto.

“Mylo Xyloto” — Like most instrumental passages fewer than 60 seconds long, it’s nice but not really essential. Next.

“Hurts Like Heaven” — Ooh, peppy! I like the directness and dance-ability of this, even though I am in fact a shitty dancer. This is easily more immediate than anything on the Viva La Vida album (which is not to say better, mind you). Nice vocal melodies from Chris “Mr. Paltrow” Martin.

“Paradise” — This hasn’t grown on me since I wrote it about it when the single was released. “Paradise” is the type of song that Coldplay bashers latch onto, probably because it sounds like it was constructed rather than written. It’s the prototypical Big Coldplay Musical Statement track, with replete with synthesized string orchestra and soaring vocals. It’s not a bad song at all, but this is why the band has been dogged as U2 ripoffs, and is why I haven’t loved a lot of their post-Parachutes music.

“Charlie Brown”— Ah Coldplay you tricksters! I was sure this was going to be a “Paradise” rehash, but then they brought acoustic guitars into the mix and turned the ‘grandeur’ dial down a few notches. Just a few. This has the same anthemic, sing-songy structure as most of Viva La Vida. I would be interested to hear this in demo form, as I suspect it would be a more engaging listening experience.

“Us Against the World” — According to Wikipedia, Mylo Xyloto is a concept album in which two protagonists — Mylo and Xyloto — who are living in an oppressive, dystopian urban environment, meet one another through a gang called “The Lost Boys” and fall in love. Yay.

I’m guessing this is the “love letter” portion of the album, and so I’m not even going to try and figure out the lyrics. The song is largely acoustic, and it’s actually pretty nice. I don’t know who told Chris Martin that those lower-register croaks were a good idea though.

“M.M.I.X.” — Well that was totally pointless. You’re telling me this couldn’t have been the first 48 seconds of the next song instead?

“Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” –I hope you didn’t wash the stamp off your hand after “Hurts Like Heaven,” because we’re goin’ back to Club Coldplay!

Good tune. As I opined in my “Paradise” post, this was a much stronger single and I stand by that. And don’t look now, but there’s an actual lead guitar part (go Jonny Buckland!). It’s nice to be reminded now and again that Coldplay knows how to just be a rock band once in awhile.

“Major Minus” — This may not be the best song on the album so far, but it’s the most interesting. Yeah so it channels ’90s U2 again — so what? It’s a good song at least. This one has Brian Eno’s fingerprints all over it. It skitters and moves, but doesn’t feel disjointed.

“U.F.O.” — Nope, this is not a tribute to the classic British hard rock/metal band. It is in fact a relatively subdued acoustic piece that floats in and floats out in just over two minutes. Pretty but slight.

“Princess of China” — So this is another flavor of a typical latter-day Coldplay track. Echo-y guitars go here, string section goes here, professional-sounding keyboard/percussion bed goes here. But this time we get guest vocals from Rihanna! Whoopity-do!

This song is all flash (courtesy Eno, no doubt), little substance. The flash is nice and well-done, granted, but it’s still just flash.

“Up in Flames” — A fairly stark offering. Mostly a piano, some synths, a simple percussion part, and Martin’s vocals. A lot of people will probably really connect with this one. I like it well enough and wouldn’t skip it if it came up on a shuffle, but I wouldn’t necessarily seek it out.

“A Hopeful Transmission” — See comment for “M.M.I.X.” above.

“Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” — I don’t know why I keep hoping Coldplay will throw some really cool curveball into the mix, because clearly they’re a talented bunch and could probably shake things up without losing too many fans. But no. Instead we get a ton of songs like this, which all sound like cynical attempts to sound really epic within the rather limited framework of the three-of-four-minute pop/rock song.

In other words, if you haven’t given up on the band by now then you’ll probably like this song. Otherwise, move along.

“Up with the Birds” — BLOODY HELL! Can’t I get one fucking song from this band anymore that doesn’t pile on layer after layer of keyboards, synths, and other crap? I mean, the second half is pretty good. Maybe Rick Rubin should produce their next album.

Sigh. I actually dug Viva La Vida in spite of my growing indifference toward Coldplay, but I think they’ve lost me again with Mylo Xyloto. I’m convinced that buried under all the studio artifice and rigid adherence to a commercially successful formula is a good album. But instead I’ll keep three, maybe four tracks off this one and ditch the rest.

And now I need to listen to “Shiver” again to remind myself how fun and uncluttered this band was at one point.

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