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Monday, November 7, 2011

Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto: A First Listen

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 3:58 PM

coldplay_mylo_xyloto.jpg

The No. 1 album in the country this week is by the biggest band on Earth. All is right with the world? Well, hold that thought. Unlike textural forbears U2 and Radiohead, much less the Clash or Nirvana, most people even willing to concede that Coldplay is a relevant force do not think it has made great albums. A Rush of Blood to the Head was very good, and surprisingly spiky when it wanted to be (which was not often), while X&Y and Parachutes were singles-plus-other-stuff. Viva La Vida was Something Different, sort of. It had a huge title hit and will almost certainly age better than Zooropa (played "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" lately?). But Eno's not exactly Nigel Godrich these days. Where does that leave Mylo Xyloto, which is allegedly named after the protagonists in a probably total bullshit storyline? With Coldplay's best reviews since Rush. Let's test them.

"Mylo Xyloto"

I'm sucker for the title-tune fakeout trick. Remember when you finally got to "Birds" on Quasi's Featuring "Birds" and it was literally just a minute of recorded birds? This isn't as fun.

"Hurts Like Heaven"

But oh what it leads into. Coldplay was so stodgy circa "Speed of Sound" or so that it's inevitable the most actually influential band of that era is who they're aping now: their idea of fun is Arcade Fire. But with synths! With any other band I'd scoff hard at this. But if Arcade Fire's bookish groove could make anyone less generic, it's these guys. And did I mention there's synths?

"Paradise"

God, that string riff. I know this. I swear. I like that the hip-hop drums, "para-para" stutter-syllable hook and single designation trick you into thinking this might be the Rihanna song. But it's not.

"Charlie Brown"

Love the cavernous How to Dress Well-style intro. And the guitar riff (doubled by marimba, of course!) What's with this band and guitar riffs lately? Are they trying to make people think they rock? Silly band. I like this as much as anything they've done, though.

"Us Against the World"

Cough; hardly. Cheeky title for the first "boring" song, though, considering Coldplay being boring is usually what the world's against. (The part of the world that isn't buying all the Coldplay records I mean. Chechnya, or something.) This is sprightly and tuneful.

"M.M.I.X."

Their "Treefingers". No really, it leads into the single like Radiohead did into "Optimistic." Though the single is, uh, much lighter fare.

"Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall"

From day one, I could not front about loving this song, which sucks because unlike merely loving the occasional Coldplay song, I've now demoted myself to loving the occasional Coldplay song about crying. To its credit, this beat-y thing did everything it could to avoid the typecasting of the title: triumphant, pennywhistle-like guitar riff, swellheaded bass-drum throb, and a cover endorsement by none other than Official Dancehall Queen Robyn, who sings it better but needs the guitar. Essential!

"Major Minus"

Speaking of Zooropa, this is a weird song with odd tech ideas and an odd melody some are comparing to Radiohead. And Chris Martin sings it in a goofy surfer-Ringo accent. But this is way too upbeat to be Radiohead. The trip-hop part that kicks in reminds me of "The Wind," off PJ Harvey's Is This Desire?. Still very impressed with the number of balls-out guitar leads Martin allows Johnny Buckland on this thing.

"U.F.O."

All right, a truly empty one. But it's only two minutes long. One reason this album's very good at circumventing bad reviews is because it's very coy; lots of interludes, or at least filler that could pass for them. Either way, this album's going by quickly. But "Waterfall"'s the only song in the last four that I'd actually ask myself to put on. And I'm going to keep comparing this band to M83 if it keeps naming stuff after UFOs.

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Dan Weiss

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