Spectrum Culture OCTOBER 26, 2011 - by Jacob Adams


Coldplay has been churning out painfully adequate pop and, on rare occasions, "rock," music for almost twelve years now. Their reputation as one of the most pleasant, most easygoing groups of their generation precedes them, the kind of band you can take home to your mother. Not a shard of danger infiltrates their sound. This is music for movie theatre lobbies, to be played in the background at suburban chain restaurants. In short, Coldplay is a nice band playing nice music. New record, Mylo Xyloto, changes none of this.

Granted, Chris Martin and friends' fifth studio album does have an exotic, hard-to-pronounce name. The cover features some funky looking graffiti art. Nobody's falling for these outer quirks, though. The band insists that they have purposely expanded their sound this time, exploring musical arenas that have remained untapped in the past and employing the ubiquitous Brian Eno as a consultant. It's true that Mylo Xyloto does incorporate slightly different sonic textures than their previous efforts. If anything, Coldplay's new album pushes the band even further into the mainstream. It's the most electronically enhanced, dance-driven record of the group's career. The track that most acutely emphasises this point is Princess Of China, the duet with Rihanna. It has the kind of anthemic, arena-level trappings of earlier Coldplay favorites like Clocks and Speed Of Sound, but replaces rhythm guitars and pianos with washes of synth pads. Sure, it's a lot of fun. The synth-heavy, four-to-the floor pop song has the potential to be one of the season's biggest club tracks. It doesn't take much of a cynic to speculate that the inclusion of such a track represents not artistic growth by these lads from Britain, but rather a desire for an even steadier, healthier cash flow.

Supposedly, Mylo Xyloto is a concept album about two lovers in an oppressive time. More accurately, it's a concept album about the triteness of Martin's lyrics and themes. With lines like, "Every teardrop is a waterfall" (one that the band liked enough to use in two separate songs), "I'd rather be a comma than a full stop" and "You use your heart as a weapon / And it hurts like heaven," nobody will mistake the band for great poetic lyricists of our time. Of course, these lyrics were composed by the same folks that gave us lines such as, "Is there anybody out there who / Is lost and hurt and lonely too?" The fact that lyrical subtlety is not Coldplay's forte is news to no one.

To be fair, these cliché qualities are what make Coldplay so commercially viable. The band is like a refreshing drink from a well that has been drawn upon time and time again. There are few innovations or surprises. Some of the songs' melodies are so catchy that I regrettably started singing them in my head after only hearing the record once. I don't wince every time I hear a Coldplay song come on the radio, appear in a television ad or play in a club. I don't hurry to listen to more of their music in the comfort of my own home, either. Ultimately, Mylo Xyloto is just another unadventurous chapter in the history of a band addicted to its own relentless suitability.