Coldplay: Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends

Music Reviews Coldplay
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Coldplay: Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends

Play On

By: Kristina Feliciano

You know you’re in for a different kind of Coldplay experience when Chris Martin ditches his anguished falsetto for a deep, doomy basso profundo, as he does on “Violet Hill.” Has the sentimental frontman finally torn his heart from his sleeve? Not with lyrics like “If you love me, won’t you let me know?” But Viva la Vida—for which Coldplay teamed up with Markus Dravs and ambient-music hero/longtime U2 co-producer Brian Eno—is in fact a major departure for these angst-mongers. At times Viva evokes everyone from T.I. (the pounding “Lost!,” which recalls 2007 summer blockbuster “Big Things Poppin’”) to Madonna (the choppy, synthy opening of the title track conjures “Papa Don’t Preach”). Less surprisingly, the album also recalls U2, whose love of shimmering guitars and epic existential explorations Coldplay has always shared. The sonic deviations may challenge fans who prefer that all of the band’s releases be a shade of “Yellow.” But more daring listeners will be relieved that Martin & Co. are exploring new territory.

Played Out

By: Jesse Jarnow

It’s not that Coldplay’s Chris Martin is a lousy songwriter (though he often is) so much as he’s one whose work somehow always ends in string eruptions. On Viva, working with producers Brian Eno (making his presence known from the first synth washes of opening instrumental “Life in Technicolor”) and Markus Dravs (engineer on Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible), Coldplay finds new and noisy ways to make lots of other instruments sound like cellos and violins (like the guitars on first single “Violet Hill”). Which isn’t to say that they don’t use an awful lot of strings, too. In the bargain, tunes frequently start with Radiohead-style atmospheres—on “Strawberry Swing,” Martin leaps octaves like an SNL caricature of Thom Yorke—and build toward anthemic U2 territory. Given Eno’s quarter-century of Bono-fides, this isn’t surprising. Martin’s interests are frequently vague—on “Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love” he sings about soldiers who must soldier on and runners who must run until the race is won. Seriously?