Friday, 16 December 2011

Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto


There tends to be this ill-conceived truth now in music that if something sells in its millions, then it means that it serves neither quality nor listenability. Whether that's down to its usage, its promotion or simply the artist/band themselves, the truth is is that the 'mainstream' doesn't always equate to a lowering of quality. It's Coldplay, the four-piece led by Chris Martin who find themselves walking the thin line between listenability based on popularity...and listenability based on quality. Though their debut Parachutes - an interesting mix of warm aesthetic acoustics and layered instrumentation - was one of the highlights, in both quality and numbers sold, of 2000...the band have failed to live up to that achievement, instead favoring accessible pop rock to reach the wider (and probably, easily pleased) audience...and thus, millions more copies finding themselves in people's home.

Three years later from their somewhat mediocre revival back into the field of 'interesting' music (over the 'enjoyable' sort) with Viva La Vida, Chris Martin and co. return with a semi-conceptual homage to adolescent romance and graffiti art in 'Mylo Xyloto' (no penalties for mispronouncing the annunciation here).

The self-titled track, much like the opener of their previous LP, is little more than an introductory piece, limited to jittering piano keys and echoing guitar chords which gradually gain pace and momentum until we are led into 'Hurts Like Heaven'. It's clear that Martin has decided against any form of riddles or deeper meanings - 'written in graffiti on a bridge in a park/do you ever get the feeling that you're missing the mark?'...the lyrics are simple; trackable but not immediately gripping. If anything, the vocals can at times sound meshed too deeply in the music which here jumbles into little more than a tapping of sound, piano and drums indistinguishable from the guitar. The theme of simple lyrics continue on 'Paradise', a more deeper and personal approach this time, torn apart by the explosion of sound that culminates in the main riff and chorus' of the song - the lyrics here little more than the title itself. You would be forgiven for thinking this was some electro-rock accompaniment to a particular song concerning umbrellas.

But it's on 'Charlie Brown' where the band demonstrate a sense of understanding and maturity with composition, even if the name suggests otherwise. Martin's vocals clearly show signs of control and balance with the music, even if the lyrics are at times non-sensical and irrelevant to the bigger picture that is the concept of the album. The music itself is uplifting; liberating in its direction as a drop of piano chords battle it out with the strumming of the main riff of the song. But it's the vocals that outshine above everything else. Whether it's Martin himself or the child-like gibberish echoing in the background, you can't help but feel a sense of eeriness from this track, as if there's something else here we don't know much about, if at all.

'Us Against The World' continues this vibe, warm acoustics and rousing electric chords giving us a calmer mood for Martin to lay down a gentle murmur of the later chapters in this story of love and rebellion. It's almost reminiscent of the 'Parachutes' days and is a welcome addition to an album that at times tries too hard to be heard. The nostalgic warmth doesn't last long, 'Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall' as if some antithesis of this, is glistening as if some e-coloured snack with sparks of electronic overlays. As expected, the finale to these sorts of songs - as the band tend to do nowadays - is overly extrovert in sound, part noise, part unleashing of all the emotion and energy Martin has built up attempting to boom over the instruments they are all conveniently playing at the same time.

It's here where the problem rises...or rather, continues as has been the case with their discography. If they're not opening a song with an immediate crash, bang, wallop of sound...then the finale to such compositions becomes a victim to the dreaded pop rock structure that is: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. In Coldplay's case, replace the final chorus with as much sound and noise as you can fit on a track mixer.

Even the pleasant collaboration with Rhianna on 'Princess of China' becomes a victim of this insecure lack of exploration and experimentation. The song, as a result, becomes predictable and lack-luster in its execution, the synthetic buzz throughout little more than a musical sticky-tape holding the song together. Likewise, tracks 'Don't Let It Break Your Heart' & album closer 'Up With The Birds' show very little regarding any sign of experimentation, or in the lesser regard, a change in pace or song structure. The former, an immediate clash of instruments right from the start shows very little in potential development, the overall mix providing very little breathing space for the music to truly seep through to the listener.

Indeed, it's no surprise that we find ourselves once more, reveling - with quite sighed breath - in the very same outcome of a Coldplay album. We had hoped for something better, something greater, something that would show a little glimmer of creative change and potential and could stand a lot higher than just 'another generic pop rock' record. But just like their previous outing, 'Mylo Xyloto' will no doubt be glorified in the highest honors of any record. No doubt it will sell millions of copies, no doubt it will be seen by many 'critics' as one of the greatest records of our time and no doubt it will be nominated - and later win - at several award ceremonies. The fact still remains...if you're looking for something beyond the norm of the mainstream, something that excels in production and promises a certain level of enthusiasm and intrigue, then this is definitely not one for you. Ah well, there's always 2014, huh?
~Jordan


4.7

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