Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
I can’t say that I’ve been completely “in” on Coldplay since the release of X & Y, and it is hard for me to put a finger on exactly why I stopped listening to them. I didn’t really enjoy X & Y all that much, but one mediocre album rarely dissuades me from completely removing a band from my musical consciousness. Never was there a moment where I said to myself “Screw Coldplay”, “They’re sellouts”, or “Chris Martin should strap himself to a bomb, go on stage with U2, and flip the switch”. I think what happened was, even without paying particularly close attention to Coldplay post-X & Y, I knew that they had begun fully transitioning into “arena-rock band” mode, while focusing less on the sparse piano and simple guitar ballads that won my affection to begin with.
Gone with the simplicity of earlier work, unfortunately, is any semblance of sincerity. Making “arena rock” may happen organically for some bands, and certainly may have happened early on in Coldplay’s career (“Politik”, “Clocks”). But at some point certain bands have to make the conscious decision on whether or not they need to keep packing arenas, and subsequently sacrifice some of the intimacy that drew many early fans. And, judging from Coldplay’s latest album Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay is clearly sacrificing an intimate feel in order to cater to the tastes of the masses. The sad truth is that Coldplay will never please the masses more than they did with Rush of Blood to the Head, their most accessible, honest, and acclaimed album.
On Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay continues the trend of taking guitar echo and sonic distortion from exquisite complement to an end in itself. Missing are the structurally simple wooden frames on which Coldplay used to build immaculate mansions. The biggest perpetrator of over-indulgence would probably be “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”, the title itself being painfully melodramatic. Contained within the grating synthy keyboard and looping electric guitar, is some usable acoustic guitar and piano that could have been stripped down, instead of turned into a shitty club tune. Another regrettable track would have to be “Don’t Let it Break Your Heart”, which sounds like it wants to be a frantically-paced “Don’t Stop Believing” for a minute. The song fails miserably as an indistinguishable mess of bass, electric guitar, and the pounding of a couple piano keys.
Don’t let all the above negativity lead you to believe that I hate this album. I just don’t like seeing one of my former favorite bands shooting for consistent replay on “The Mix” 97.3 f.m., or whatever adult contemporary stations are out there right now. In fact, a lot of the tracks on the album are quite fun, even if they lack more than a candy-coated shell of real substance. At first, “Major Minus” harkened back to 90’s Filter, but once getting past that, the distorted vocals of Chris Martin manage to shine. “Princess of China” may be the most fun you will have on Mylo Xyloto, even if the presence of Rhianna seems like the ploy of a marketing genius. In addition, “Us Against the World” may not capture the earnestness of earlier work, but Martin manages to offer a gently building acoustic and piano ballad that is easily digestible.
What does all of the above add up to? An album that has all the elements to win over a very mainstream audience, with a few tracks that can’t help but please even the harshest critics. Probably pretty close to what Coldplay was shooting for, sadly enough.
Can’t Miss: “Major Minus”, “Us Against the World”, “Up in Flames”
Can’t Hit: “Don’t Let it Break Your Heart”, “Hurts Like Heaven”, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”
While I agree that X&Y was a fork in the road for Coldplay’s career, as Chris Martin sadly self-proclaimed the album their Kid A, I actually believe that the album that followed which was also their last, Viva La Vida, is possibly their best album period. While I am also not much of a Coldplay fan nowadays (I was in the early years), even as a bystander, I can still see the brilliance of direction and richness in texture that legendary producer Brian Eno brought to Viva La Vida, especially on songs like “Lost!” and “Life In Technicolor”.
As far as the nonsensically-titled Mylo Xyloto is concerned, I sort of see it as an attempted redux of the electronic stylings of X&Y, with similarly mediocre results. Eno is also involved here, but somehow can’t save this muddled concept album from sounding insufferably cheery and offering literally zero new musical ideas beside the obvious crossover hit attempt “Princess in China”.
I agree it’s not all second-rate, as I also really enjoy “Up In Flames”, which sounds like a hi-fidelity version of one of Bon Iver’s 80’s style piano ballads. I would also agree that “Major Minus” is by far the biggest success on Mylo Xyloto, as it screams of U2 (like they try to do not so subtly on most of their music), but this song particularly nails Achtung Baby era U2 with its crunchy guitars, distorted vocals, and tight sugary chorus. The song is also sure to kill live, as whether you like Coldplay or not, they are admittedly a very fun live band. Couldn’t disagree more on “Us Against the World” though, as I think all the ballads on Mylo Xyloto, minus the aforementioned “Up In Flames”, are as stale as a week-old creampuff.
One thing that I would be remiss to mention is the sheer silliness of some of Chris Martin’s lyrics, and I think that’s one thing that has always remained a turnoff for a lot of people for Coldplay and will remain a turnoff. GQ released these fake Coldplay song titles for Mylo Xyloto a few months back, and funny enough, titles like “Just Me Humming”, “Dreary Rain In A Dank Place” and “Here’s a Song for Hotel Lobbies” aren’t that far from reality, as Mylo Xyloto actually has songs cheesily named “Us Against The World”, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”, “Charlie Brown”, and “Princess from China”. And with lines like the incredibly redundant “I turn the music up/I got my records on” and the grammatically awful “I be a bright red rose come bursting the concrete”, Chris Martin won’t be convincing anyone of his lyrical genius anytime soon.
On Mylo Xyloto, sometimes Chris Martin has a way of just coming off as plain obnoxious, and this is definitely the case on “Hurts Like Heaven” and “Charlie Brown”. “Hurts Like Heaven” has Martin sounding like a pimple-faced, voice-crackling teen with ADD all hopped up on pixie sticks. I’m a positive person, but even “Charlie Brown” bugs me for being unbelievably chirpy especially with its stomping bridge that feels far too similar to every Mumford & Sons’ song every made, since they all follow the exact same structure.
Overall, I feel similar about Mylo Xyloto as you do, but I am going to dock it an extra half point for finding a way to make a mediocre product with Brian Eno at the production helm.
Can’t Miss: “Major Minus”, “Up in Flames”, “Paradise”
Can’t Hit: “Charlie Brown”, “Hurts Like Heaven”, “U.F.O.”
Whether it be music or movies, I try to rarely read reviews on anything before I listen to or see see it for myself. Especially if it is something I am anticipating for one reason or another. I feel like it sets an unnecessary bar for myself that I then have to leap over or dive underneath. Ironically enough, I also don’t like the concept of professional critics in general. My re-viewing of the movie Ratatoullie recently only reconfirmed how unsettling it is that I myself now write out my opinions as if they matter, and blatantly force them into my friends news feeds on facebook each day (dammed if Disney movies don’t cut me deep every time I watch them). I feel a bit more like Anton Ego, the “villain” in Ratatoullie each day. And although I am not as well spoken as Peter O’Toole, nor does my voice sound half as disgustingly villainous and manly, I do sometimes feel as douchey as his pretentious character in that movie. The point of all this (aside for a shameless plug about how much I love Disney/Pixar movies) is that after breaking my own rule about not reading reviews before I listened to the album myself, I also then turned into that douchey Anton Ego villain that I try so hard to steer away from (Spoiler Alert: and yes, I am referring to the douchey, pessimistic Anton Ego BEFORE he turns good at the end).
I read Austin and Wes’s above opinions on this album before I listened to it. What this did is force me to want to love this album. My expectations were low, and I thought I could find everything good I wanted in the piece of work. I, like Wes, loved Coldplay’s last efforts. I think it was one of the most well produced albums in recent years. Coldplay came back from two steps backward (X and Y), with four steps forward. Coming out with another Brian Eno-inspired (not fully produced by), Markus Dravs (Brian Eno, Bjork, Arcade Fire, Coldplay) produced album with a guest spot from Rhianna really seemed like the sexiest thing they could have possibly done at this point. Unfortunately, it turned out to be about as sexy as Peter O’Toole post 1968.
I can’t add too much to what these two idiots above have already said, unfortunately. As boring as it is to say, we just agree on this one. Although Wes was a just a bit off when talking about Brian. Brian was involved in the album (I’m sure even more so than he is credited) but Markus and former Coldplay producer Rik Simpson headed up production. Maybe whatever Brian sat out on was the missing link from Vida to Mylo. Nonetheless, the album is still so well-produced that at some points (starting with the first full track, “Hurts Like Heaven”) you honestly feel like your headphones are plugged straight into the mixing bench that Brian’s cronies are working from. The album is painfully precise, and sounds as bright as a harp being played by Gods fingers himself (Sigur Ros IS sampled on this album). But then you have to listen to Chris’s lyrics … and then realize how pathetically lazy the music (basic instrumentation) actually is … Wes I couldn’t agree more with the statement that this album is nothing more than a well-produced X and Y. Had Coldplay produced this album themselves, it would be even more miserable than X and Y. However, because the production is so magnificent, I can honestly find some things to list that I love about this album before I give it a lousy rating … yes I said love.
As already stated, I love the production. I think that it would be hard for anyone to sit down with a good pair of headphones and say this album doesn’t sound great. I also love the effort, the work, and the process it took to craft this album. Yes, making this album is a craft, unlike that of which we really see in music anymore these days. I respect them greatly for that, and because of it there are some redeemable tracks residing on Mylo. Having said that, I feel like this album on the whole, is just too similar to most of the cheery welcome music you would hear at an inspirational event or a summer camp or something in that vain (similar to the Cold War Kids’ latest efforts). The lyrics are miserable, the “concept” that is buried somewhere in there is lame and pointless, and the instrumentation is numbingly boring.
Can’t Miss: “Major Minus”,“Up In Flames”, “Princess of China”, “Hurts Like Heaven” – Chorus Lyrics Void
Can’t Hit: “Paradise”, “U.F.O”, “Up Against the World”, “Up with the Birds”
Austin’s Final Rebuttal
I don’t think I need to defend my 6.0 score all that much because we were all within a point of each other. I do want to say that Brian Eno is an amazing producer, and also that he hasn’t worked on an album that I’ve really given a shit about for a very, very long time. Maybe he needs to pick his projects better. Producing for U2 is like saying, “Hey, I’m one of the world’s best accountants, and while almost any company would like me to work for them, I’m going to take my talents to Enron, so that I can attempt to hide what has turned into a really shitty thing.” No use shining a turd before you toss it in my face Eno. No use.
Aggregate Rating: 5.5/11