Coldplay finally releases an album that tops even Coldplay itself. Produced by the great Brian Eno, Viva La Vida is an open and ambient masterpiece that celebrates life through glorious pronouncements of strings and beats.
I’ve been searching for something spacious like Radiohead’s Kid A, sans any of the depressing qualities, and Viva La Vida seems well suited for the job. It’s not quite as poignant as any of the Radiohead albums, but it also doesn’t leave you feeling like you just shot your cat and then thought too hard about why you did it. There’s a similar difference between rockets and fireworks, where the former creates more of a lasting effect, while the latter seems a tad prettier. Coldplay is the latter.
The other obligatory Coldplay comparison draws you to U2. On their last album, X&Y, the band professed an adoration for the Bono/Edge sound. While I think it worked for the most part, X&Y often suffered in garnering any semblance of boundary or form. Words sort of spilled out from Martin’s mouth, and the instrumentals blended into a blur. On Viva La Vida, Coldplay successfully finds the balance between all their previous work, discovering truly who they really are.
Viva La Vida opens with “Life in Technicolor,” a multi-textured instrumental opening that sort of explodes with, well, color. The following track, “Cemeteries of London” contrasts its preceding track with a haunting opening leading quickly into pounding rhythms propelling a full orchestration of sounds.
Later songs expand the juxtaposition between the first two tracks and the variation that conducts them. On “Yes,” violins jump between what resembles a Middle Eastern breakdown into a seemingly Western groove during the verses. Then there is the notoriously catchy “Violet Hill…”
One cannot discount the album’s first hit and title track, “Viva La Vida,” showcasing Martin’s exquisite and illustrative lyrical work: “I hear Jerusalem bells a’ ringing / Roman Cavalry choirs are singing / Be my mirror, my sword and shield / My missionaries in a foreign field…” I’m a sucker for escapism.
The album concludes with the choir-driven “Death And All His Friends,” finishing with a reprise of the opening track. It’s an almost symmetrical end to an asymmetrical album. And, in doing so, Coldplay succeeds in crafting something bigger than themselves, which, given their earlier successes, is no easy feat.
Good work, Coldplay! You don’t suck again!