By Stephen Ferdinando
To anyone who sits on the periphery of Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto will sound fairly familiar. It’s the usual story of anthemic stadium pop-rock songs and sing along choruses. It’s a collection of songs that’ll hold their own among Coldplay’s back catalogue and will be well received by a Glastonbury audience, but will also play nicely in mother’s car. Coldplay have mastered the pop song and this album will sit comfortably with the band and their fans.
But for people who follow Coldplay in more depth, Mylo Xyloto is actually quite an interesting album. Under the umbrella of Coldplay its quite easy to pick out the different themes and directions of each album. The previous French-Revolution inspired record, Viva La Vida, saw a more stripped back and less produced sound in comparison to its predecessor X & Y – which saw gentle and almost scientific motifs running throughout. X & Y was clearly an attempt to take Coldplay into the stadiums, which it succeeded in doing, and Viva La Vida helped colour those stadium performances. But Mylo Xyloto’s production would lead us to believe that the band are now trying to invade the mainstream pop scene far more vigorously than they ever have before.
The graffiti styled artwork, the RnB beats, the almost urban flavour of the vocal melodies, and of course the Rihanna appearance, all suggest that these songs are aimed at an even wider demographic than previously – they’re trying to tap into a younger audience. Martin has commented that the album has urban and RnB influences and it is distinctly noticeable. This is not to slate Coldplay for selling out – for how could they ever sell out in the first place? – but rather to highlight the forces behind this album, which is always important to any Coldplay record.
For these reasons it’s hard to know whether or not Mylo Xyloto is a success. It certainly has some beautiful moments. Opening track ‘Hurts Like Heaven’ is surely one of Coldplay’s finest moments. A jumping and energetic tune, it adopts that arms-in-the-air sing along mood that Coldplay are so good at, and both single releases, ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’ and ‘Paradise’, share this. These tracks show the band’s urban experiments used intelligently; the synths and electronic vibes are in no way out of place. ‘Charlie Brown’, ‘Us Against The World’, and ‘Major Minus’ are also perfectly good songs, capturing the new sound without loosing authenticity.
The album does, however, trail off towards the end, and where originally the songs would have been left barer and simpler the production makes them loose any individuality. ‘Up In Flames’ and ‘Up With The Birds’ are almost the same song, and I can’t understand the need for them both. Interest begins to drift as we enter the closing tracks, which is a real shame, as the potential is there to make those songs more exciting. The Rihanna collaboration also feels slightly alien in the record. The song itself is fine, but a far better approach would have been to release it separately with Rihanna, much in the same way they did with Jay-Z on ’Lost!’ Including her on the concreted album is a bold statement that the band perhaps don’t want to make.
Mylo Xyloto is a welcomed and comfortable new addition to the Coldplay family. Its artwork and style is fitting with their work, and some of the tracks will undoubtedly slide smoothly into the live sets. It’s perhaps one of their least consistent albums, but overall the strong moments overpower the weaker ones. This will be no disappointment to any Coldplay fan, but it simply lacks the quantity of quality that Viva La Vida and A Rush Of Blood To The Head had.