Mylo Xyloto - CAPITOL
FILTER Grade: 80%
By A.D. Amorosi on November 8, 2011
You know what you never hear about Coldplay? That they’re funny. Or grooving. Or blithe. Or that theirs is nothing less than the statuesque soundtrack to the everlasting kingdom and the glory. Amen.
Whether they’re ever actually being profound or just acting it out, Coldplay’s take on the art of the portent—from singer/lyricist Chris Martin’s brooding tales of a bruised world to the band’s marble-arching anthemic ambience—sounds gravely weighted. (For pop, that is.) Enter the stupidly titled, but richly and unendingly fascinating Mylo Xyloto.
Make no mistake. Coldplay and Martin still seem concerned with surrounding the world’s problems with a blanket of muscular sound, only this time warmer and snoozier in terms of textures than heard previously. With co-writer and sometime-producer Brian Eno adding “Enoxification” (their term for that ambient twitching thing he does) to the proceedings, the whole thing sounds like a rave in a cathedral with paranoia and joy heaped upon every pew.
If that sounds familiar to Coldplay denouncers (like this reviewer, normally) who enjoy looking backwards to the highway robbery—er, influence—of U2 upon Coldplay’s vibe, have at it. But where Bono and the boys kept their irked electronica on the edge of the industrial complex (until they went all House on Zooropa) and their minds on romantic emotional decay, Coldplay seem to speak to grander, gentler schemes without getting all stressed out.
For every nervous, tension-filled electro bit (the humming “M.M.I.X.”) there’s a sweetly theatrical flourish, an acoustic “Us Against the World” that battles chaos with love. For every gargantuan swing for the fences of hope (“Don’t Let It Break Your Heart”) there’s subtle confusion both in its lyrical éclat and musical mood (“Up With the Birds,” which borrows handily from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”).
In an interesting turn of phrase and event, it’s not so much what Coldplay have to say but the backbeat behind what they’re saying that has heads turning. There’s a sonic sense of play and sensuality that simply doesn’t exist throughout the quartet’s cold catalogue. (Someone has been listening to Phoenix.) “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” is a lonely groaner that tries its hardest to corral rabble-rousing youth: “I turn the music up / I got my records on / I shut the world outside until the lights come on.” Ugh. But no heated House tune that samples Peter Allen’s “I Go to Rio” has let rigor mortis fully set in. Martin may croon, “Life goes on / It gets so heavy” (on “Paradise”), but the block-rocked, digi-hop beats claim otherwise. How down can life be when the groove is bobbing and the volume is pumped up? Rihanna duets with Martin on the trembling “Princess of China” and takes the funereal gathering to new electro-thrumming heights. And who could pout at a song named after a Peanuts character (the jittery “Charlie Brown”) no matter how ire-filled and epic it turns out to be? With all the bells and whistles in prominent display, Coldplay may have made their most enjoyable album. I only hope the sourpusses enjoy it.