Monday, June 16, 2008

You didn't get to heaven but you made it close

Coldplay -- Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends

Everyone is saying that Coldplay's new album is their "experimental" record, with new producer Brian Eno at the helm.   Personally, I did not have the aversion to X & Y that so many critics had, and I think Coldplay had found a good little niche.  But who cares about all that?  I don't need to review Coldplay; I need to review Coldplay's new album, so I decided I am going to review this album on the merits of the songs themselves.  This seems like quite a bold concept, based on so many of the other reviews I've read of it.

So I am going to sort of live-blog my review, and just type in my thoughts as I listen to the songs for the first time (except for the two singles, which I have obviously heard before).

Here we go.

"Life in Tecnicolor" starts the album of on a (mostly) instrumental crescendo of synthesizer, guitar, and some sort of Indian stringed instrument.  This will sound like an odd comparison, but it reminds me a little of the Chemical Brothers' songs that crescendo this way, such as "Surface to Air"--no, it does not sound like the Chemical Brothers, but I like this style of song.

Anyway, next comes "Cemeteries of London," which begins in a rather dark and creepy way, and then picks up with a good, strummy guitar line.  This song is an interesting mix of dark/broody and arena singalong, with some cool percussion parts.

"Lost!" is an early highlight, and I guess it "breaks the mold" of Coldplay.  The percussion, including handclaps, takes center stage here, and the church organ melody line adds some darkness as well.  But the Chris Martin's vocal melody is my favorite part of the song.  He takes his voice to some familiar high notes and unfamiliar low ones.

[The first half of]* "42" is a bit more familiar, and would probably fit in nicely on Parachutes.  It's a nice slow, piano-driven number, and the string accompaniments give the song a bit of a soundtrack feel.  But halfway through the song, "42" leaves this path and veers into new territory.  Some weird orchestration signals the change, and then the song picks up into an uptempo, poppy guitar song: "You thought you might be a ghost. You didn't get to heaven, but you made it close."  Great.
* I had to add this phrase after the second half had begun. 

"Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" -- ah, the old dual song.  I love the way this song begins.  The quick keyboard tickles, the uptempo bass drum.  Chris Martin's voice here does merit all the comparisons to Bono.  "Reign of Love" slows the song down, but here again, the piano is one of the highlights.  There is something about the piano part, combined with the background guitar, that I just love.  This song is lovely.

"Yes" showcases Chris Martin's low notes again, and the strings in this song really add a lot of complexity to the music; these strings seem to be playing many roles at once here.  And once again, the guys have sort of created multiple songs here.  Halfway through, the song becomes another animal entirely, with electric guitar and Chris singing in his high notes.  I'm not sure what is going on here, but I am enjoying it.  My initial impression of "Yes" is that it is a very cool song that many almost-fans won't like much.  But I do.

And "Viva La Vida" is one of my favorite Coldplay songs ever. This song rivals their best work. It is fairly close to perfect.

"Violet Hill"--I love it.  Many people I know were turned off by this song ("Oh no, what have they become?"), but I think it is a fantastic song.  The pulsing beat, the guitar snippets, the lyrics, the guitar solos--everything.  

"Strawberry Swing" -- this song starts and I think I may be on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack for a few seconds, but once I have figured out where this song is going, I really like it.  Once again, the combination of percussion and guitar really works to create something new and different here.  The vocals are subdued, allowing the music to shine.

"Death and All His Friends" starts off very mellow, with just Chris and the piano, but the now-familiar high guitar comes in, leading to an awesome piano and guitar crescendo with a driving drum beat, and another singalong moment.  And then we have what is either a short hidden track, or just the end of "Death," which is sort of a Brian Eno take on "The End."  Very nice.

As a bonus track, I have an acoustic piano version of "Lost."  This version is quite beautiful, but the percussion of the regular version made it a stand out.  The acoustic version is good, standard Coldplay. 

OK.  I really, really like this album.  It is a break from what Coldplay have done, and I think it works incredibly well.


At 2:30 PM, Blogger Erik posited...

I like this significantly more than "X & Y", but I don't quite know what to make of it yet. Eno's production is top-rate, but I long for the emotionally-gripping songs ("The Scientist", "Sparks", "Warning Sign", etc.) of their first two albums which are missing on "Viva La Vida".

At 3:24 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

I know what you mean, Erik. The darker tone doesn't quite allow for that. But "Viva la Vida" (the song) does grip me, but in a different way. "Lovers in Japan" has gripping potential for me, as does "Death and all His Friends." No, there is no "The Scientist," but I still love it.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Aneez Kanji posited...

It's time to check the new FREE release from coldplay titled "Death Will Never Conquer". It is right outta 'O Brother' and my favourite song not on the album.


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