Monday, October 24, 2011

Music Review - Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto

I've been defending Coldplay for years. My wife hates them, my daughter hates them, and many of my friends hate them. Not that this stops me from listening to their music or being a proud Coldplay fan. In fact, I kind of get a kick out of annoying people about my fifth favorite musical act (after The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Who, and U2). At a friend's BBQ a few years ago, which was full of opinionated music lovers, I made it a point to wear the one Coldplay shirt that I own. People were staring at my shirt like it had the words "F*** You!" on it. It was great!

I'm not exactly sure why, but the band is polarizing. As someone who appreciates Coldplay I don't really understand that but what do I care, it has never stopped me from enjoying their music. Until recently that is. It pains me to admit that when I heard the first three early released tracks from Mylo Xyloto (good luck figuring out how to pronounce that), I was very skeptical of the direction the band was taking. Unfortunately those songs proved prophetic, as this fifth album is easily Coldplay's most unbalanced, unfocused, and weakest offering to date. 

The theme of Mylo is hard to pinpoint as many tracks, taken as a whole, lack structure. There are several references to nature (water in particular with lots of tears, waterfalls and rivers getting shout outs) but also of destruction, mostly of the emotional variety. Independence and freedom pop up several times too, but there are also cautionary tales of distrust. Coldplay's lyrics have been known to be a bit convoluted. The band has made its mark more for the feeling its songs induce rather than saying word for word what people are thinking, but the album's lack of narrative seems to contradict itself. 

Yeah, I've been to a Coldplay concert. What of it?!!

Even the rhythm of the songs themselves are indecisive, as multiple tracks maintain a beat and cadence for 30 seconds to a minute and then change completely. Perhaps this is a nod to one of Coldplay's influences, such as The Beatles (other influences are evident too, "Major Minus" has U2 written all over it and "Hurts Like Heaven" has a Radiohead vibe), but it's overdone here. 

The band attempts to cross multiple genres with mixed results. From techno/club music, hard rock angst, mournful acoustics, to their standard piano driven pop, Coldplay tries to spread its wings in an attempt to keep from being pigeonholed. This may be a result of being one of the most unfairly criticized bands in the world, unable to keep haters and critics universally happy despite worldwide success. However, in Mylo Coldplay instead just comes across as having lost their way. 

In an effort to please everyone, it seems Coldplay has done something it could ill afford to do, disappoint their loyal base and disorient casual fans. While it does offer a few noteworthy songs, Mylo Xyloto falls flat, lacking the emotional power that is traditionally a hallmark of a Coldplay album. Parachutes had "Yellow", Rush of Blood to the Head had "Clocks", X&Y had "Fix You", and Viva la Vida had "Strawberry Swing". Each of the band's previous albums contained at least one song per album, out of many, that stood out. 

Considering that the best song on Mylo is the just okay "Paradise"and a close second is hard to find, this is an offering that will leave most Coldplay fans wishing. Wishing Gwneyth Paltrow dumps Chris Martin so the guy can get back the inner melancholy that made him so successful.   

Overall Score: 7/10

Songs on Mylo Xyloto you might enjoy - Charlie Brown, Hurts Like Heaven, Paradise, Princess of China 

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