Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW// Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto

   I realise that as an independent music blog Coldplay probably aren't a band you'd expect to find covered in its pages, however a number of people have asked of my opinion regarding the London quartet's new album 'Mylo Xyloto', so I thought I'd adhere to their wishes! A fourteen track effort, this record is first and foremost a concept album, detailing the lives of Mylo, and you got it, Xyloto. In terms of the title I've got nothing against it. Some folk label it too hard to pronounce, or find some strange Balinese translation. Take it for what it is guys: the names of the two protagonists. The album art has also been picked out by some. Pink and purple are too pop-orientated for Coldplay's fan base? The truth is that's exactly what 'Mylo Xyloto' is. Pop-orientated. Chris Martin and Co. have stripped back their sound and thrown in some elements that might put a frown on the faces of long-time fans. I don't like the album for this reason. Not the cover. Not the name. It's the shift in sound that does not click with me. It feels over-produced even despite the infamous Brian Eno working with the band. It lacks originality and that deep emotional connection albums like 'Parachutes' had!
     Opening with a forty-two second introduction, the title track glitters and hums with the inclusion of synths, a sensibility rarely heard in past efforts. Its been there, most notably in 'X &Y', but never as domineering or obvious as here. 'Hurts Like Heaven' follows with nice oriental flavours dusting the track. At this point I am ready to accept and enjoy a different sound, and it does turn out to be one of the nicer numbers on the album. Rock roots and dance-pop vines intertwine to form a steady, pleasantly upbeat tune. I've settled into their new groove with an instilled sense of confidence and anticipation, but then Coldplay hit us with 'Paradise'. Not quite an abomination, but it comes close. The chorus is catchy, but it's a pop trick of sorts, sang with unoriginal, yawn-inducing repetition. The arrangement is an outstanding example of Coldplay pop done well, sure, but the lyricism is absolutely dire. A shocking opening line goes "When she was just a girl / she expected the world / but it flew away from her reach / so she ran away in her sleep". Another particularly bad section is a truly abstracted: "Life goes on, it gets so heavy/ The wheel breaks the butterfly". Lacking conviction and never really explained, 'Paradise' grates on my nerves. Lead single? Bah.
     The out-loud comical belly laugh induced by Martin's chipmunk expression at the start of 'Charlie Brown' made my heart sink despite it's humourous execution. 'Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall' attached another weight to it within thinking twice. It lacks the hook required to salvage itself from Johnny Buckland’s pitiful attempt at a danceable guitar riff. 'U.F.O's a pretty nice song at the start. Stripped back and delicate at heart it reminisces past tracks, perhaps most obviously 'X & Y's 'Til Kingdom Come'. A vulnerability seeps through, and I enjoyed it. Coldplay were way too eager however to patch up the leak with unappreciated and unnecessary production. Rihanna's contribution to 'Princess of China' worked well. If you can look past the highly unimaginative rhymes: "Once upon a time we burned bright / Now all we ever seem to do is fight", then you might be able to appreciate it for what it is. A catchy song elevated because of Rihanna's experience in the genre, or because Coldplay tried to conform to her style? Perhaps. 'Up In Flames' acoustic simplicity is fantastic, as is 'Don't Let it Break Your Heart's throbbing conclusion. The ultimate song on 'Mylo Xyloto' is okay. The story of Mylo fleeing the city to avoid a run in with a gang, Coldplay seem to be running out of ideas. Rhyming 'pain' with 'rain' made me cringe more than a little though in truth the calm swelling of the drums leads the album to a pleasingly graceful, fragile finish!
     All things considered this isn't an ear-offending effort, but for three years in the making I was disappointed with what they unveiled. Heavily produced with brilliant lyrics thin on the ground, underwhelmed is an apt summary regarding Coldplay's fifth studio record. It is an adventurous album, evolving in style along a route the band hadn't explored. Conceptual in execution, these fourteen tracks relay a tale of two lovers In this respect 'Mylo Xyloto' is perhaps the most 'together' album Coldplay have recorded! However for me, I'm afraid an incredibly positive review was never on the cards. If I were you I would stick with 'A Rush of Blood to the Head'. Unlike this it doesn't cause a headache doing so. Congratulations are extended to Coldplay for trying something new, but an uncertainly and lack in confidence while recording 'Mylo Xyloto' hinder its potential. I'd stream 'Paradise' below, but I would be surprised if you haven't heard it already. The album is readily available from music stores.