Album: Viva La Vida
Comments: At the very least, I can say that I never actively disliked Coldplay.
Sure, I made fun of them like anyone else might. I thought their mopey sap-rock was the stuff of high school crushes and deep, intimate naps, but they've always been a relatively harmless rock entity. In fact, I've downright liked some of their singles. “Yellow,” “The Scientist,” “Clocks” and “Speed of Sound” were all catchy soft-rock tracks, both well written and pleasant on the ears.
Of course, I would never refer to the inoffensive, soft spoken British dudes as a rock band. In my mind, they were closer to easy listening. I wasn't alone in this, as Coldplay was once named “Band Most Likely To Put You To Sleep.” Whatever the group was, soft rock or easy listing or low impact pop, they were not a rock group.
It's this distinction, that the group is nothing but a band of whiny man-girls, that Coldplay seems to be trying to shake on Viva La Vida, their fifth studio effort. And while the album does rock harder than past releases, the band still has a long way to go before their edge can cut anything harder than warm butter.
Viva La Vida opens with “Life in Technicolor,” a quick, cathartic song driven by ambient hums and guitar riff that sounds like it's being played by the world's most rocking sitar. The song is pure anthem, all the way down to the “Whoa-oh-ohs” that briefly flirt with the tune. It's all over too quickly, but it sets the tone and implies that things might be a little different on this outing.
The track is followed by “Cemeteries of London,” which is a drum-driven outing that uses the band's usual “U2 meets Radiohead” sound. Lead singer Chris Martin talks about underwater cities, God talking to him in a garden, and leads a ghost choir in a chorus of “la da da da leeey.” While it doesn't exactly rock, it's much less flaccid than most Coldplay fare. The album is consistently drum and keyboard heavy, which works out very well in some places (like “Cemeteries of London”) and just comes off as played on others, like on the go-nowhere “Lost!.”
The band put so much emphasis on not being a pack of lame wusses that every song is pushed to its rocked-out limit. “42” starts out like a standard piano-driven Coldplay song before lapsing into symbol crashes and guitar riffing while Martin sings “You thought you might be a ghost / you didn't get to heaven but you made it close.” It's a shame that the first half of the song is such lame, standard schlock, because the second part, if fleshed out, would have sounded awesome.
Song come and go from that point, bleeding into one another without any real separation. The band never strays far from their grandiose, stadium snooze tone that is their signature. Martin's delivery stays constant, his croon only changing occasionally from “quiet” to “a little less quiet.” Lyrically, the words are broad and meaningless, but folks aren't going to Coldplay for the poetry.
Viva La Vida is not a bad album by any means, but it isn't as different as one would hope. While this is Coldplay's “rock” album, it does little to break up the atonal monotony that is, sadly, this band's trademark. Even when things are turned up, the songs still bleed warmly into one another, making sure that nothing stands out apart from the whole. Hyper-dramatic, pleasant and grand, Viva La Vida is more of the same from England's finest sandmen.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Key Tracks: Life in Technicolor, 46, Viva La Vida
Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal