, October 25th, 2011 07:07
It's the music you can enjoy between meals without spoiling your appetite, made by the world's favourite band and hand-built by robots. Lipsmackin', thirstquenchin', acetastin', motivatin', goodbuzzin', cooltalkin', highwalkin', fastlivin', evergivin', coolfizzin' Coldplay: Designed for living. Engineered for life.
Doesn't your home deserve Coldplay? It's a good question. They've been making good things taste better since 1996, and their fifth studio album sees them straddle the globe like golden arches, connecting people, bringing people together, any time, any place, anywhere. It is, to be honest, a remarkable skill, and Mylo Xyloto proves that Coldplay haven't lost any of the ability to manufacture a soaring melody and a sense of community that they first exhibited on their debut single for Fierce Panda, the cutting edge indie label that, around the same time, bequeathed the world Tiger, Embrace and Ultrasound. So powerful is the feeling of unity that the band generate that it's almost impossible to hear a single track here without imagining the sound of a crowd roaring at the recognition of a song's opening chords: listen to 'Paradise', where a dramatic, string-accompanied introduction (artfully conceived, one can't help feel, with Later... and a quartet of female violin players in slinky black numbers in mind) tumbles into a synth line borrowed from Air's 'Kelly Watch The Stars' like it's a kid being dropped off at the pool. Listen to the way the acoustic guitars of 'Major Minus' are interrupted by the fierce chug of an electric guitar (brilliantly conceived, one can't help feel, with Johnny Greenwood's 'Creep' riff and a blinding wall of white lights in mind). Listen to how the powerfully titled 'Us Against The World' starts out all quiet, a pretty arpeggio painting equally pretty patterns in the night time sky, before Chris Martin sings in his commendably polite fashion that, "Through chaos as it swirls / It's us against the world" (touchingly conceived, once can't help feel, with drunken, forgiving hugs in cold, muddy fields in mind).
Music is art, but muzak is science, and Coldplay are technicians of the highest order, not so much writing songs as building grand monuments to the 21st Century out of the detritus of modern day life. Listening to these eleven songs – and the three short instrumental sketches that are most likely the result of what the album's press release calls "enoxification and additional composition by Brian Eno" – is like watching a car commercial that's 45 minutes long: it's masterfully directed, packed with the latest technology, full of gleaming surfaces, awash with inspiring scenery, and blessed with both the sophistication and convenience to which our world aspires. Passion is Coldplay's passion – seriously, Mylo Xyloto tugs the heartstrings like it's dragging a sofa upstairs – and this is as deep as a luxury bathtub from Homebase.
Its opening 43 seconds (the title track, it turns out) call upon the epic sound of Sigur Rós, the delicate sound of a xylophone twinkling like distant stars amid a golden sunset of effects-drenched guitars, before – feel the power of their acceleration! – they launch into 'Hurts Like Heaven', an uplifting gallop that, with its sly reference to Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', acknowledges the band's debt to whose who have commanded arenas before them. 'Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall' (a line so compelling it's also employed in 'Paradise') meanwhile starts out like it's a Europop anthem, but this, it turns out, is less an attempt to capture the Europop market as a canny method of reflecting the lyric's references to the communion felt in nightclubs at the weekend: "I feel my heart start beating to my favourite song / All the kids they dance, all the kids all night/ Until Monday morning feels another life". To their even greater credit, they then throw in the kind of bagpipe guitars that haven't been heard since Big Country went of 'East of Eden', and a breakdown that would land most B-list celebrities in the Priory.
Then there's 'Major Minus', which follows that aforementioned cunning reference to their heroes, Radiohead, with guitars that The Edge selflessly donated to them last time he worked with Eno, something further echoed in Chris Martin's lyrical "Ooh Oo-oohs", a respectful tip of the hat to his mentor, Bono. There's also the gearshift down into 'Up In Flames', whose drums start out like Massive Attack's 'One Love', but which cleverly wrong-foots us by proving to be a classic Coldplay piano ballad, the kind Antony Hegarty would have recorded if he'd had any interest at all in owning a yacht in the Bahamas. And who cannot wonder at the ingenuity of a band that can end a song called 'Don't Let It Break Your Heart' with the sound of a heart, unbroken, still beating? Only the kind of person who would reach the conclusion that Rihanna's presence on 'Princess Of China' is utterly contrived. After all, the fact that her foil, Coldplay's frontman, has given the up and coming 'songstress' such a high profile break that he only turns up for the song's first verse is evidence of the band's generosity rather than their proficiency at marketing. Right?
Martin really tears up the rulebook with his lyrics this time, too. On 'Us Against The World', his moving imagery – "Like a river to a raindrop I lost a friend / My drunken head's a Daniel in a lion's den" – is as enigmatic as the low note he strives for each time the verse ends, while 'Major Minus' is full of potent paranoia so dizzy it's rendered almost senseless: "You got one eye watching you, one eye what to do", he warns us, adding later that, "I hear those crocodiles ticking round the world." On 'Charlie Brown' he confesses the depths to which he has been known to sink – "I stole a key / Took a car downtown where the lost boys meet / I took a car downtown and took what they offered me / To set me free" – and shares the enlightenment that his narcotic experimentation has offered him: "My scarecrow dreams / When they smashed my heart into smithereens / I'll be a bright red rose combusting the concrete". But though he still maintains an admirable ability to keep things as simple as Paris Hilton – "Lord, I don't know which way I am going / Which way river gonna flow," he sings on 'U.F.O.', "It just seems that upstream I keep rowing / Still got such a long way to go" – he's not afraid of confronting the complex, disconcerting times in which we live on 'Every Teardrop...': "I turn the music up, I've got my records on / From underneath the rubble I hear a rebel song / Don't want to see another generation drop / I'd rather be a comma than a full stop". Fuck, yeah! That's the articulate message the revolution needs.
If Mylo Xyloto is a feat of liquid engineering, a box of magic moments surrounded by a ring of confidence, then Coldplay are like the fourth emergency service, there for us when we're at our most desperate, able to pick us up off the lonely hard shoulder of life. You can take your Sunn O)))s, your Walls and your Factory Floors. For everything else there's Coldplay: reliable, built to move, and able to run on hot air alone. Because you're worth it...