INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Globe And Mail MAY 31, 2008 - by Brad Wheeler
BLOWING MINDS, NOT WOOFERS
A record-label man doubles as an usher, herding a small, lightly shuffling group of music journalists into a listening room. "Sit anywhere," he says, motioning to nicely stuffed chairs. "You can sit in the back too," he says, "because we blew out the rear speakers at the last session."
Coldplay, the band whose colourful hit rhymes with mellow, is now rupturing woofers? While I picture straws breaking camels' backs, the lights go down and the album - with the two-minded title Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends - arrives with the rising swirl of Life In Technicolor, which mixes a strumming acoustic guitar and arpeggiated Baba O'Riley synthesizers. The effect is similar to the instrumental start to U2's The Joshua Tree, co-produced by same Brian Eno who co-produced this album.
Eno's influence on the new Coldplay is profound. And by "new Coldplay", I mean "different Coldplay". The elegant ballads, airy crooning and life-affirming choruses of the past are not abandoned as much underplayed.
Due to be released on June 17, Viva La Vida (Long Live Life) is structured with meticulous concern, and is more adventurous and atmospheric than its high-selling predecessors Parachutes (8 million copies worldwide), A Rush Of Blood To The Head (eleven million) and 2005's X&Y (ten million). An epiphany came to singer Chris Martin after listening to a droning, off-kilter song by Blur, Sing (To Me). "I remember hearing it and thinking 'OK, we need to get better as a band,'" Martin recently recalled.
Group vocals were recorded in an ancient Barcelona monastery; the title track employs strings, kettle drums and church bells; Strawberry Swing bears the influence of Malian blues; a piano is actually jaunty on Lovers in Japan/Reign Of Love. "When a band gets to its fourth album there's little surprise left in the singer's voice," Martin told a television interviewer. "We wanted to make sure we didn't sound the same as we did four years ago."
Mission accomplished. This sonically grand fourth album makes the first three look like a light-rock trilogy in retrospect.
Lyrically, there is a preoccupation with ghosts and existentialism. "Time is so short", Martin ponders on the elaborate 42, "I'm sure there must be something more."
The album closes as it began. The Escapist, one of two "hidden tracks, samples from the disc's rippling, synthesized introduction. "And in the end," Martin sings, "we lie awake and we dream of making our escape." An idea on life's meaning also applies to a band's run for higher artistic credibility. Coldplay doesn't wish to wreck speakers and cash registers, but to blow minds.