Sunday, November 27, 2011

Viva La Vida revisited

From the archives this week - holidays and all - but stay tuned for the Top of the year summation late December.

When considering Coldplay's Viva La Vida, my reaction - it's a mixed bag - and definitely took a while to grow on me.  "Life In Technicolor" and "Cemeteries of London" are a nice instrumental-followed-by-regular track opener to this album. "Lost" throws heavy church-organ grandiose streaks over what would otherwise be a very classic Coldplay song. "42" follows a less standard structure and, disappointingly, manages to start sounding fantastic...when it changes gears with just over a minute left, and just as it starts to get great, it's all over. "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" is a bit long in the tooth, but manages to work overall. A little trimming would have fixed it all. The crowning track is "Strawberry Swing" which sounds like Coldplay & Brian Eno's production technique working best and like a track Coldplay had been meaning to make for a while now. That track in particular is warm, cozy, and very evocative - of a warm summer day on the back porch sipping a glass of lemonade, you name it - it's just a very well crafted slice of pop-rock heaven.

The good things about this album? Freedom from retreads (anyone else out there think that "Speed of Sound" sounded eerily close to being simply "Clocks, Part 2"?) The bad things? Coldplay's musical aesthetic gets buried too often under Eno's instrumental tidal waves, to the point where if you delete the vocals, you wouldn't be sure it was U2 or Coldplay you were listening to. Surely the lack of Edge's ringing guitar lines would key the listener to the fact that it isn't U2, but still, one shouldn't have to make this distinction in the first place. For album #5, I would hope they self-produce, or if not that, try someone other than Eno. End result - this isn't necessarily a bad Coldplay record. But it is not all they are truly capable of. So in the end, I give it a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10.

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