The Herald Sun JUNE 12, 2008 - by Cameron Adams


Coldplay fans can relax. Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends is in shops on Saturday.

After their American-seducing Rattle And Hum tour ended in 1989, U2 closed the decade with Bono stating the band "have to go away and dream it all up again".

On that note, welcome to Coldplay's post-dream album.

It's brave, ambitious, romantic and forward thinking. It's also amazing.

No strangers to borrowing from the U2 guide to world domination (and paying regular homage to The Edge's guitar history), Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends sees Coldplay recruit U2 sound-subverter Brian Eno to push them out of their stadium rock comfort zone.

Where X&Y was indulgent and formulaic (most songs pushing six minutes), Viva La Vida is concise and captivating.

Arriving at a time people are buying individual songs not albums, it's defiantly a true old-fashioned album, with songs taking musical detours beyond the bit designed for the Americans to wave their mobile phones to.

Here's our track-by-track guide to the most anticipated album of the year:

Life In Technicolor
Eno hooked the band up with British electronic soundscaper Jon Hopkins, who provides "colours and additional production" throughout. Coldplay have also sampled his Light Through The Veins for Viva La Vida's musical bookends. This is a gorgeous opener; warm electronica with an Oriental wash. Most importantly, though it's an instrumental it doesn't need Chris Martin's voice to sound unmistakably like Coldplay once the band kick in - gently.

Cemeteries Of London
Starts a little like Scarborough Fair before Jonny Buckland gets his Edge on again, with a shimmering guitar that slices through the song's folky vibe and sea-shanty chanted backing vocals.

Already surfaced as an acoustic B-side to Violet Hill, this fully grown album version adds hip hop beats and church organ. Comes with more open-ended guitar to give you more U2 flashbacks. All rather beautiful, even if Chris Martin's clumsy lyrics state "just because I'm hurting doesn't mean I'm hurt" before banging on about big fishes in little ponds, crossing rivers and the shine wearing off.

The album's first real surprise. Starts as a tender piano and string moment (with the opening lyrics "those who are dead are not dead, they're just living in my head"); minus all of the stadium nonsense that would have been added three years ago.

Then, after barely ninety seconds, it morphs into a twisting and twisted spiky rock tune that lures you into the song's third part - a brilliant bite-size pop moment with Martin singing "you thought you might be a ghost" before we're returned to where we started, and all with change left over from four minutes. Most bands would take any of these three ideas and expand them into a hit single; you get three for the price of one here. Think a pint-sized Paranoid Android.

Lovers In Japan/Reign Of Love
The first real taste of the big Coldplay sound. Those old U2-aping stadium habits die hard, with the driving rock rhythm, rollicking piano and melodies to spare. Eno adds some sonic doodling in the background to earn his keep. Reign Of Love drops everything right back to first gear, a campfire moment with just piano and, yep, some more U2 haunting guitar.

Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant
The album's centrepiece and creative peak - and more mutant two-in-one song action. Starts as heavy soft rock with what sounds like psychotic fiddle and Eastern strings punctuating a woozy flashback to A Rush of Blood To The Head. Just as Yes winds down Chinese Sleep Chant storms into life - it's their most exciting three minutes of music in years; My Bloody Valentine-style feedback and a dose of welcome urgent guitars as Martin sings random melodies over the top. Brilliant.

Viva La Vida
Did someone say instant classic? There's no surprise this song was used as an iTunes ad at the same time Violet Hill confused the masses. This is just simply amazing pop, everything you ever loved about Coldplay, but with the trademark Brian Eno twist. There are dancing strings, powerful vocals and a piano line that keeps building and building. But not an ounce of sombre here, rather a truly triumphant anthem-in-waiting that's going to be impossible to ignore. Somewhere Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody is kicking a wall. Very hard.

Violet Hill
Chosen as the first single, those experimental urges make more sense in this context than rubbing shoulders with Flo Rida on the radio.

Strawberry Swing
Squealy guitar and quietly pounding drums on a surprisingly subdued moment, with a lovely Beatles-esque spin towards the end.

Death And All His Friends/The Escapist

Tinkly piano gives way to a strong, moody finale for a band who always end their albums strongly. Hidden track The Escapist is the musical twin of Life In Technicolor, more whizzing electronics.

The verdict: Coldplay relocate the balance between being one of the biggest bands in the world and being one of the most interesting.