Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Coldplay: Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (2008)
I apologize for the tardiness of this review. After coming off a two week high of Tha Carter III and Sic Semper Equis Coldplay’s fourth album Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends was bound to disappoint.
There has been a large fuss before Viva La Vida’s release about how experimental it was going to be and even though Chris Martin and the boys do change things up a bit it is hardly as experimental as they contend let alone revolutionary.
There are three (or four) tracks on here that eschew the traditional (and Coldplay standard) verse -chorus-verse structuring but overall these songs, like “Lovers In Japan/Reign Of Love,” and “Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant,” end up feeling like multiple song bits crammed together arbitrarily. The only one that manages to work in my opinion is “42” that goes from Coldplay’s own “Trouble” morphing into a raucous Ok Computer-esque violin and guitar jam before jumping into a sweet pounding little pop number complete with handclaps and “oh ohh oh ohhhs.” Things come full circle before fading back into the Parachutes-reminiscent intro.
Chris Martin and crew come off best when working with “complete” songs such as “Viva La Vida” and “Violet Hill” even if the lyrics strive hard for universality and promote outmoded ideas of revolution. Did Chris Martin just learn about all this stuff now? The Iraq War has been going on since 2003! Where has he been? Oh that’s right he’s been fucking Gwyneth Paltrow; If it were me I’d ignore the outside world too. In all seriousness though, the "viral video" of “Violet Hill,” featuring found footage of our leaders and wars, is one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time and actually manages to say something new instead of just tossing around old activist slogans and imagery.
First single “Violet Hill” also is a good example of how Coldplay built up to the rooftop raving choruses and glorious anthems on previous albums like A Rush Of Blood To The Head. The closing track “Death And All His Friends” has the classic closing mantras but has no build up (the song is like thirty seconds I swear) so those moments of glory arrive undeserved. That’s not to say there aren’t some glorious highs on Viva La Vida.
“Lost!” is my favorite track on the album closely followed by “Strawberry Swing” for two different reasons. When I first heard Viva La Vida the only song that immediately grabbed me more than any other was “Lost!” because its confidence and awesome handclaps and Indian tabla stomp driven by an atmospheric organ and Jojnny Buckland’s guitar. “Strawberry Swing” is also a winner because unlike the rest of the album it seems a lot more intimate and relaxed, containing the endearing charm of Chris Martin that we’ve come to love without being overbearing. Some Afro drums and reverb-laden handclaps drive the beat, taut violins, subtle and discreet, and a sweet noodling reversed guitar circles around Chris Martin as he declares, “It’s such a perfect day…”
Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends is as hardly revolutionary as Coldplay would like to think, but once you get over the initial disappointment that rich multi-millionaire rock stars can’t change the world, you’re left with a decent album that shows that maybe rich multi-millionaire rock stars are at least thinking about it.
"Viral Video" for "Violet Hill"