Let me preface this by saying I am the last thing from a Coldplay hater. There are plenty of those out there ready to pounce on anything they do. I have been defending this band since before 'Parachutes' even hit it big in the States, after hearing the stunning "Trouble" on the local public radio station one afternoon back in 2000. I saw their first U.S. tour, in small theaters, when it came to Detroit at the then State, and have since seen them in amphitheaters and arenas as they have become one of the biggest bands in the world.
Even though I don't feel they've ever topped 'Parachutes', there was still plenty to love on 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' and 'X&Y'. It seemed, however, that each album release was weaker than its predecessor. They rebounded with their strongest album since their debut with the assistance of Brian Eno on 2008's "Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends", adding new sounds to their repertoire but still retaining enough of the Coldplay formula to appeal to longtime fans.
Now Chris Martin and company are set to release their fifth full length and there really is no polite way to say this. "Mylo Xyloto" is an abysmal mess. After the initial shock wore off that this indeed was the new Coldplay album I was listening to and not some practical joke, the remainder of my listening experience was as empty as this collection of songs is. Barren of interesting ideas, bereft of any lyrical depth whatsoever, this is the one that will have the Coldplay haters saying "I told you so."
Members of the band have stated numerous times over the last few years they wanted the followup to "Viva La Vida" to be a more stripped down, acoustic affair which is laughable considering the electrified, everything but the kitchen sink production of this album. Apparently Coldplay are now all about the 'sick beats' and the ridiculous electronic gimmicks that permeate the shit that spews from typical Top Forty radio hits these days. I should have known something was amiss as soon as I saw there was a duet with the dreaded Rihanna and her dull, robotic tones that some people call singing.
The hyped up beats and electronic effects on Martin's vocals on "Hurts Like Heaven" are embarrassing, the 'para, para, paradise" chorus of, you guessed it, "Paradise" is bloated and overblown and the more acoustic "Major Minus" sounds like it was tossed off in about five minutes, lyrically and musically.
I paid little attention to first single "Every Teardrop is A Waterfall" before the album came out, and now that I have given a proper listen to this mix of Sesame Street and U2, it is no wonder it never grabbed my attention. Even a song like "Don't Let It Break Your Heart", which proves that the other band members actually were present during the recording sessions instead of the overbearing electronics that dominate too many of these songs, is buried in way too many layers of production, making it impossible to find the song lurking somewhere in there.
Even the less bombastic tracks can't compare to Coldplay's best work. "Us Against The World" is one of the better ballads, a mostly acoustic affair that is refreshing just for the reprieve on your ears. "U.F.O." never really gets a chance to go anywhere, clocking in at just over two minutes. Closer "Up With The Birds" is also on the reserved side, but I've frankly heard this band put better tracks on B-sides in the past.
There are only two songs on "Mylo Xyloto" that can stand up with the best this band has released over the years. "Charlie Brown" has the most insistent hook on the album. Yes, it has a grand chorus and plenty of sing along ready moments tailor made for adoring arena audiences, but there is no denying it works on this one. And by far, the best track on the album is piano ballad "Up In Flames". A lonely, thudding beat runs underneath, while Martin switches to falsetto for the heavenly chorus. It's a gorgeous song, but sadly one of the only ones that exemplifies what Coldplay does best. It actually depresses me more that such a gem is surrounded by the rest of this rubbish.
I am all for bands experimenting with their sound, or even exploring new territory. I am not expecting "Parachutes 2", the fact I loved "Viva la Vida" serves as proof of that. I'm sure "Mylo Xyloto" will sell millions and be all over the radio for at least the next year. That doesn't change the fact it is largely, to my ears, a hollow, soulless pandering to current musical trends. Fast food Coldplay. Chris Martin is again hinting in interviews this could be their last album. I hope, for their sake, it is not as it would be a lousy way to go out. C'mon fellas, you're better than this.
"Mylo Xyloto" will be released in the U.S. October 24, 2011 on Capitol Records.