Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

An edited version of the following was syndicated with Beat magazine, but for all you AMR purists - here's the director's cut:
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (Parlophone)
The difficulty with reviewing Coldplay’s latest, is that it’s going to be rendered important or successful by the sheer size of their audience. They have, to their credit, remained hugely popular for a decade now; but despite attaining global ubiquity they’ve yet to really shake things up in the way their forebears Radiohead, R.E.M. and U2 have. All have managed, in their own culturally impacting careers, to straddle the fine line between commercial success and critical irreverence; but Coldplay have yet to ‘do a Kid A’ so to speak, let alone make their own Up or even an Achtung Baby; though 2008’s Viva La Vida came close, produced as it was by Brian Eno. His provocative methods did marvellous things for Bowie and the aforementioned U2, and they seemed to challenge Coldplay to deliver what was the group’s most eclectic and intriguing set yet. So with Eno back on board for Mylo Xyloto you’d expect more winning trips outside of their comfort zone, but for all intents and purposes, it suffers from a bad case of sequelitis. Despite its adventurous title, and even the promising digital EP that preceded it, Coldplay’s sixth studio album is a safe affair, void of the risks and rewards of its predecessor.

It starts promisingly enough, with the instrumental title track segueing into the buzzing Hurts Like Heaven. But quickly teeters dangerously close to ‘Coldplay by numbers.’ Paradise feels overwhelmingly familiar, featuring a semi-chorus that’s better described as nagging than catchy. Even the widescreen ballads that the band have always excelled at seem to suffer. The tinkling, forgettable Charlie Brown, the light jangle of Us Against The World and Don’t Let It Break Your Heart seem to suffocate beneath their grand arrangements, though they have the energy, they lack the passion and sparkling clarity of a Clocks or The Scientist.
Bizarrely, it’s lead single Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall that remains one of the record’s highlights, transposing the winning Chris Martin cathartic anthem – daft clichéd lyrics and all - to a riff ‘borrowed’ from Peter Allen’s I Go To Rio. Major Minus follows, eschewing the tinkled ivories for a ripping mix of rough nineties guitar (shot through with a bit of Stone Roses swagger) and finely-honed atmospheric frills. It's faux-rough sure, but by contrast, it's the most bristling thing here.
It’s proof they’re not lacking in ideas, just a solid vessel with which to carry them. Though sonically, it sounds terrific, nothing seems to stick. To be fair, it must be strange to commit yourself to writing a song that will, by virtue of your popularity, inevitably be heard by literally millions of people. But where Coldplay have always managed to offset those gargantuan expectations with their energy and passion, now it seems they’re playing up to it.
It’s a bloated listen as well. Fourteen tracks with three interludes clocking in at 45 minutes, which by the maths doesn’t seem long, but it’s crying out for some editing. It’s something the band have struggled with ever since the indulgent X&Y. A record with some dizzying highs, but a wealth of tedious middles also. It’s difficult to remember that their first two career-defining albums were a whip-tight ten tracks.
It’s not a bad record by any means, it just panders so blindly to what Coldplay thinks an audience expects of them with minimal diversion. It’s a shame as Viva La Vida seemed like the first timid steps into a bold new direction; but the most daring thing on offer here is letting Rihanna hum a few verses over some generic electronic groove on (the mawkishly titled) Princess of China. That’s not risqué, it’s just different by virtue of not being another one of the pleasantly inspirational but ultimately hollow hymns that litter Mylo Xyloto. At this point in their career, it seems redundant to retreat back to the safe arena-rock that made their name. For most bands, taking a major risk with your sound or audience is a dangerous move, for Coldplay, with their legions of adoring fans – it doesn’t seem like a risk at all. Instead, it seems like a natural trajectory that would catapult them into the annals of rock history; in the upper echelons alongside the ranks of their beloved Radiohead and U2.
They shouldn't be settling for just the serviceable, and neither should we.


  1. Love the review, you took the words right out of my mouth. Deadly accurate, the album is safe and too familiar but was always going to be hard off the back of Viva. As a sign of my approval I have shared this on facebook.

  2. Thanks Contributor, glad you dug it.
    To a slanderer of Coldplay's complacency, the sharing of social media is the ultimate seal of approval.