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Friday, October 21, 2011

Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto (Release Date: 10-25-2011)

        More so than just about any other rock band working today, Coldplay is a known product. Each release by Chris Martin and company comes with hyper-specific expectations, including a variety of orchestral instrumentation, a sad-sack set of lyrics or Two (or Eight), and a bare minimum of Two singles that will never leave your brain (or the radio airwaves) ever... like, ever. It is perhaps this reluctance to throw curveballs that has gotten the band as far as they are, their millions of fans hungrily anticipating each new disc, and the comfortable familiarity that it will surely bring. Of course, these expectations are also a curse on the band, causing sonic change-ups to sound too jarring, and balladry, wether simple or grand-standing, to seem like a par for the course.

        The band's approach to combating this image was apparent the moment that the disc's first single, Every Tear is a Waterfall, dropped: They aren't changing squat. If the song title alone wasn't Coldplay enough for you, consider the track's musical escalation, Martin's signature wailing (especially near the end), and the guitars, toned specifically to upset as few ears as possible. It's a solid song, but remember who we're talking about here. This band has never had a problem hitting solid, each of their Five efforts proving a good listen from start to finish, but the wow-factor is often a no-show. As a matter of fact, Mylo Xyloto often functions best when it avoids grandeur altogether, such as on proper-opener Hurts Like Heaven, a feather-light pop number with plinking electronics and exuberant chorus chants. More than anything, the song is fast and lively, Two words that don't often fit in with the band's aesthetic, and that's just what helps them here.

       But when you hear Hurts Like Heaven start off the disc on a bouncy, fun note, just promise me you won't get your hopes up. The back half of the tune dissolves into slower, sadder notes, draped in Martin's ever-present falsetto, dampening the mood before launching into second single Paradise. Here is what needs to be said about Paradise: The opening line reads, "When she was just a girl/She expected the world/But it flew away from her reach/So she ran away in her sleep/And dreamed of paradise." If reading that didn't cause you to either roll your eyes or throw up, then perhaps Mylo Xyloto is just the disc for you, but I for One have heard lyrics of a similar simplicity at a 6th-grade talent show, not to mention their too-emo-for-life meaning. The bitching and moaning is bad enough; The fact that the band somehow doesn't seem to realize how trite and predictable it is makes it even worse. Funny thing is, I kind of liked Paradise at first (the radio has already over-played it, so my current opinion isn't really the song's fault), and the same could be said about almost every track here.

        I honestly can't think of any band who was bigger at any point in the 2000's than A Rush of Blood to the Head-era Coldplay, and that was only their second disc. It's the kind of success that tends to glue you to a spot, or, in this case, a sound, and Coldplay is living out that problem as we speak. Not too many popular, renowned musical acts are all out of surprises by album number 5, but that's just where the band has found themselves, playing the same 6 chords on different instruments, throwing in the voices of random pop stars (Rhianna makes what is either an inspired or confusing cameo on Princess of China, I'll let you decide), trying to recapture the magic.

        Mylo Xyloto is good at first listen, but its blatant identity as, 'Another Coldplay Album,' becomes more and more grating with each spin. I started this week cranking the thing up in my headphones; By now, hearing Every Tear is a Waterfall has become an actively frustrating experience. The good tunes (Heaven, Charlie Brown, the second half of Up With the Birds) are, in time, dragged down by the off-putting lesser tracks (Us Against the World, Up in Flames, Don't Let it Break Your Heart), adding up to a pretty unappealing whole. It has now become nearly impossible to hear the band's music without their legacy in mind, and were I to have no previous experience with the Four-Piece, I can imagine enjoying the disc quite a bit more. But it's not their debut, and worse yet, there are no Spark's or The Scientist's hiding on this LP, the lack of any single great song(s) depriving the album of a true center. It's alright, better than most of the things it will be playing in between on the radio, but is, 'alright,' really what we want from, 'America's Biggest Rock Band?'

Grade For the First Four Listens: B-
Grade For Listen Number Five: C+
Grade For Listen Number Six: C
Grade For Listen Number Seven: C-
(You get the drill)

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