Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Coldplay moves towards the future with new tunes and a fresh attitude. Oh, that's The Borg not Coldplay pictured. Would be cool if it was Coldplay though.
It's a fine line between having a musical influence and copying someone else's stuff. Every musician has influences, but the question is can the artist make their influences their own? Or will they come off as a pale imitation of the original? For Coldplay, that question comes up with their fourth album Viva La Vida or Death and all his Friends. Having recorded what will probably be considered their definitive album the second time out (A Rush of Blood to the Head in 2002) and delivering their bigger and bloatier follow up (X & Y in 2005) the fourth album becomes the deal breaker for the alt rock balladeers. Is the ride over or can the band renew interest in them after such a heady commercial peak?

The quartet saw the ante upped by the fact that in the wake of their popularity a number of other bands adopted their sound. It's gotten to the point that other bands accuse Coldplay of literally stealing their songs. Damn that Chris Martin, he's taking the music from my mind again! Stop that Chris, I'm on to you.

But maybe the claim that Martin is a musical hamburgler isn't too far off. Vida la Viva shows the group opening up their sound to a new range of tones and instrumentations. The classic Coldplay thang of swoony singing, classy keyboards and a subtlety sweeping groove is still intact. And thankfully, the over production of the prior album has been stripped away to bring back the lightness of the rest of their canon. But to liven things up, they've amped up on heavier beats and jingly percussion. Plus, they've taken on new influences to add texture to the album.

A big example is "Yes" which tackles Eastern musical themes and a droning chorus to an almost Dave Matthews Band Before These Crowded Streets degree. Their smash hit title track shows a strong Verve "Bittersweet Symphony" feel (accented by Coldplay's performance of that 90's classic with the Verve's lead singer at Live 8). "42" manages to mash up a ballad similar to their own "In My Place" with a bit of Arcade Fire in the midsection. Yup, it's a fine line between influence and thievery-Martin and Co. dance all over it.

In spite of the impulse to put down mega rich movie star marrying rock stars, I have to admit that Coldplay is successful in assimilating these influences to their sound. Viva La Vida expands their sonic palate without sacrificing the core of their free trade lovin' hearts. Viva's the step forward that the band needed to make and while it is not quite as good as A Rush of Blood to the Head (that disc had a certain purity to it) it is an addictive listen. Like The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation Coldplay becomes one with their outer resources. And the move has paid off with a number one album.

And now the lead single from Coldplay, their pounding anti war statement "Violet Hill". With this post done I can now troll around the internet to see how far off I am! Remember, Resistance is Futile.

Coldplay "Violet Hill"


Some Kinda Wonderful said...

you'll never take me alive you fascists pigs! /she goes down in a hail of... something./ it's almost 3am, what do you expect of me?
Seriously, I have never been a Coldplay fan. I don't like their sound, I don't like there presumption, I don't like the fact that the lead singer looks an awful lot like a guy I once dated, I don't even like their name. So there. That's aome of what I don't like about them.

btw, this is supposed to be a joke, but like I said, it's a few minutes til 3am. I'm not really thinking very clearly at the moment. :)

bmh67wa said...

I have heard many critics make comments about how Coldplay sounds like an early U2. So help me, if Chris Martin becomes all holier than thou like Bono...

Anyway, the new release is pretty good. After listening to the whole thing though I just couldn't help but think about how it really doesn't sound anything different from their past stuff. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Mr. Mike said...

Hi Some Kinda Wonderful and bmh67wa! Typing at three AM ain't easy, I think you both noticed the presumption / holier than thou edge Chris Martin has. I've got to admit I find Martin's coded messages (the rings on his fingers, writing on his palms, the old ratty band school uniform) annoying and amusing. I never feel more beaten over the head with fake subtext than watching Coldplay. I like their music though.