Coldplay
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
June 9th, 2008 | 838 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Well. This is a surprise.

Give Coldplay credit for their guts. After their last album, the so-inoffensive-it-hurt X&Y, Coldplay could have taken the safe route by continuing to make heart-warming ballads and spaced out piano rock which would easily accumulate lots of cash regardless of the music’s actual worth and listeners would have been just fine with that. Indifferent, maybe, but just fine nonetheless.

But then we wouldn’t have Viva La Vida.

Rolling Stone categorized X&Y as “the sound of a blown up band not trying to deflate.” If that’s the case, then Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, the fourth studio album from the London quartet, is the sound of a blown up band not giving a fuck. As the title suggests, Viva La Vida is a positively celebratory collection of songs seeping in melodies, hooks, and emotion. It’s a tour de force, showing Coldplay stripping themselves of the self-imposed chains that held back X&Y. There’s something blissfully carefree in this record’s ten tracks, as in the shuffle beat of “Lovers in Japan” or the folk-pop stylings of “Strawberry Swing.” Coldplay sounds like they’re just having fun. Even as Chris Martin deals his darkest, angriest lyrics yet (Angry is a strong term. Perhaps a better one is mildly miffed), Viva La Vida shows Coldplay taking risks that the general public never suspected they would ever take, and having a ball doing it. The result is easily Coldplay’s best album to date, a record filled with exuberance, charm, and the heart they’ve been feigning for years.

Now, as much as they’ve progressed musically, it’s impossible to deny that Viva La Vida is still a “Coldplay” record. Yes, it’s still extremely piano driven and yes, Chris Martin is still singing. But the difference between this record and previous Coldplay albums is that all the songs are actually good. There are no missteps in the duration of Viva La Vida, just ten ace tunes (thirteen when counting the three split-tracks on the album). Perhaps this stems from Brian Eno’s handiwork or the eyebrow-raising “Spanish influence” Martin spoke of during the album’s recording sessions, but most likely the record’s quality comes from the fact that Coldplay just refuses to stop moving. The self-described “very heavy soft rock band” delivers Viva La Vida as a straight-up rock album, and its drive propels the record past typical Coldplay issues. Ballads are conspicuously absent here (there’s no song for Chris Martin to walk in slow motion to) and thus Coldplay avoids the snag that dragged down their previous efforts. Instead, the listener is treated to tracks like “Cemeteries of London”, a driving waltz of a tune that sticks gloriously in a minor key. It plays out with a soaring gang chorus and hand claps to underlie the tension of Martin’s lyrics (“God is in the houses, God is in my head”).

As the second track on the album, “Cemeteries of London” exudes tons of promise for Viva La Vida, a promise only delivered by tracks like “Violet Hill” and “42” (which features a Jonny Greenwood-esque guitar freakout performed by Jonny Buckland. Finally, a Radiohead comparison that makes sense). Like “Cemeteries of London,” both tracks are dark rock tunes that move with tangible swagger and an attitude that Coldplay until now had faked. “Violet Hill” in particular struts confidently, decked out with both a stomping beat and pounding keyboards, allowing Martin to dispose of his usual niceties to deliver the single’s hook ”If you loved me, why’d you let me go?” Martin has never sounded more confident than he has on Viva La Vida, showing off his immense vocal range, flipping from the ecstatic upper reaches of “Life in Technicolor” and “Viva La Vida” to the eerily seductive baritone of “Yes.” It’s positively delightful to hear Martin have some breadth of emotion in his lyrics, as topics range from accusatory (“When the future's architectured by a carnival of idiots on show you'd better lie low”) to introspective (”No I don’t want a battle from beginning to end, I don’t wanna cycle/ recycle revenge, I don’t wanna follow death and all of his friends”) to a sort of sneering triumph ("You thought you might be a ghost. You didn’t get to heaven but you made it close”). It sounds as though Martin is finally using the style and grace God gave him, and Viva La Vida is all the better for it.

Still, despite Martin delivering his best vocal performance to date, the most appealing aspect of Viva La Vida is that Coldplay finally sounds like an actual band. Viva La Vida doesn’t sound like a Chris Martin album with back-up musicians. There’s proof in Viva La Vida that Coldplay is actually talented. Who knew drummer Will Champion was so vital a force within Coldplay’s sound? Credit the production skills of Brian Eno or credit Martin’s ego shrinking enough to highlight his band mates, but Viva La Vida could be a pinnacle for Coldplay. Sure, it’s more or less a “Coldplay record,” but there’s so much more to Viva La Vida that makes it worthwhile. There’s chemistry, attitude, and something resembling surprise, all three of which were elements ignored by the obvious and predictable nature of Coldplay’s past. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends takes a band that ostensibly was in decline, a sound that’s been tried and true, and makes it all sound fantastically fresh.

Touché, Coldplay.



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user ratings (2132)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I could have gone on for a lot longer on this album, but I figured most of the sputnik population would tl;dr, so I tried keeping it short while getting in all I wanted to say. Still, was a difficult review to write, took me almost 3 hours. EnjoyThis Message Edited On 06.09.08

SHOOTME
June 9th 2008


2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

What a wonderful review, surely blows the other two reviews out of the water.

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
June 9th 2008


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I was going to review this, but you said basically what I would've said. What a surprise, seriously. (referring to the album, nice review as expected)This Message Edited On 06.09.08

Cesar
June 9th 2008


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The album tittle reminds me of Ricky Martin.

Attention Whore
June 9th 2008


42 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Much better review than mine, haha.

Fantastic album.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Damn, Tyler, I was just gonna staff pick this, but you beat me to it.

Mikesn
Emeritus
June 9th 2008


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, this is pretty cool. Great review.

Fort23
June 9th 2008


2480 Comments


review is really good. thats all ican say because I havent heard this.

Amputee
June 9th 2008


207 Comments


Really good album. Great review, I agree with you on almost every point.

TheDistantFuture
June 9th 2008


200 Comments


Nice concise review. Listening to Coldplay makes me want to spontaneously combust though : (

kattunlover69
June 9th 2008


1194 Comments


^^

because of all the awesomeness swelling up in you?

SHOOTME
June 9th 2008


2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Coldplay went from sucktastic to awesome.

Aficionado
June 9th 2008


1027 Comments


Give Coldplay credit for their balls?
That's just a turn off to read the rest

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

meh I debated on whether or not to put that, but I figured it's an attention grabbing first line. I'll edit it up it's not that big a deal

edit: edited.This Message Edited On 06.09.08

kattunlover69
June 9th 2008


1194 Comments


a loser tells u to edit your review and you give it like that?

man where is your pride at...u should be ashamed of urself

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
June 9th 2008


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Give Electric City credit for his balls.

Or not.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

lol it's not a point worth fighting over. i figure its not a line so great its worth keeping if it turns people offThis Message Edited On 06.09.08

ninjuice
June 9th 2008


6760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Coldplay went from sucktastic to awesome.

If you're talking solely about X & Y then yes. (sort of. I liked it)

kattunlover69
June 9th 2008


1194 Comments


look at my first review...people telling me to change this and that....wanna know what i did....i stuck it to them and left it as the worst and most obnoxius review i evar did......thats pride man......sacrificing cool points just to say "hey man...its still there...LOOK AT IT..LOOK AT IT FOOL, im gangsta"

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2008


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

lol thats good you have pride

Good for you man!This Message Edited On 06.09.08



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