Coldplay
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends


4.5
superb

Review

by David James Young USER (181 Reviews)
June 10th, 2008 | 17 replies | 153,659 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Eno kids cheer up a little, accidentally creating their masterpiece.

5 of 6 thought this review was well written

Music fans, musicians and critics alike are collectively aware of how much a debut album can say about a band- how much they have to live up to if all goes well with it, and how much they have to prove themselves if it does not. In turn, it is well known of the curses of the second album, and how many band have failed on the back of it. There have even been cases of a difficult third album (First Impressions of Earth and Wincing The Night Away immediately spring to mind). It is indeed a rare occurrence, however, where so much would be resting upon the fourth album. But, then again, not a lot in the careers of Coldplay could be defined as expected or predictable.

2000’s Parachutes took the band to stardom, 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head took them to superstardom, and 2005’s X & Y sealed the deal of making the band international icons and, arguably, the biggest band in the world. Despite this, their biggest issue as a band thus far has not been creating great songs, but creating an album. Not just a collection of songs with some hit singles shuffled awkwardly in; a solid, start-to-finish work of art- an album.
All three of the band’s previous works have featured some brilliant songs, with some of the better singles of the past decade- “Yellow”, “Trouble”, “The Scientist”, “In My Place”, “Fix You” and “Speed of Sound” are all simply fantastic pop songs- beautifully arranged, written and performed works that also happened to appeal to the masses. This, unfortunately, has not translated to their albums, which have often blended the singles with filler, aimless ballads or dull, cliché-ridden love songs. With this in mind, Coldplay entered the studio once again, with a newfound ambition to create something new in one hand and legendary producer/musician Brian Eno in the other. The final result, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, is a complete evolution of Coldplay as a band. Over repeated listens, it will slowly sink in that this is Chris Martin his rarely-merry men at their most ambitious, and subsequently creating their most impressive work to date.

If anything, Viva can be viewed and approached as a correction of many of the band’s flaws. Not once does the album drag its weight (see most of the second half of Rush) or lose its focus or direction (see majority of X & Y). Instead, the record soars to a league of its own, its wings a combination of sheer confidence in what they are doing- a characteristic that certainly wasn’t present on X & Y)- and a culmination of fearless leader Chris Martin’s hopes, dreams, fears and visions. An evasion of the usual suspects in terms of instrumentation, song structure and even, occasionally, subject matter also assist the album’s progression. Don’t go expecting breakbeats or crunching drop D guitar, however- this is still, at its essence, the Coldplay we have come to know over the years. This time, however, this particular version of Coldplay is a far more inventive and skilled one, presenting a band that have evolved and, for want of a better phrase, “grown up”.

The ten tracks featured in the album are a string of very different creations that manage to come together beautifully regardless, from the spaced out opening of “Life in Technicolor”, through to the white-boy gospel of “Lost!” and the dynamic contrasts of the two-part “Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love”. The best moment of the record, however, takes form in its two triumphant title tracks. The epic march of “Viva la Vida”, complete with a wordless shout-along that would make “Chelsea Dagger” blush and lyrics depicting a fallen king who longs for his former glories, could well be the single of the year. Closer “Death and All His Friends”, conversely, is far more stripped back, presenting a pensive and uplifting piano number that builds up into a full-band opus.

It appears Chris Martin was not bluffing when he told reporters the band was throwing out their old tricks to learn new ones. This becomes ever more apparent upon each listen to Viva- aspects of previously untouched genres like chamber pop, space rock, ambience, blues, dream-pop, alternative rock, gospel and prog are thrown abundantly into the mix. There is even the spice of flamenco in “Cemeteries of London”, with fast-paced handclaps and a swirling, upbeat 6/8 signature. It will throw fans of the last few records, most certainly- the band has almost completely abandoned the feel-good stadium piano rock format. This ultimately proves, nevertheless, to be the best thing about the record: Coldplay are, for the first time since Parachutes, displaying symptoms of freedom and- cue the shock and awe- sound like they are truly enjoying themselves.

Phil Spector may have created the “wall of sound”, but it is the team of Eno and Coldplay that have made a tower of it. Over forty-six minutes, there is always something happening to keep you, as a listener, genuinely interested.
Waves of sequencer echoes and bleeps, an undercurrent of synth patterns and gorgeously unconventional arrangements of string quartet orchestration gracefully glide over the band themselves, who are already occupied with the task of recreating their roles in the band.
Arguably, the most significant of these recreations is drummer Will Champion, who creates a remarkably solid backbone to the sound scapes of the record in a fashion far less conventional, yet far more successful, than his work on the last three albums. Focus is placed upon the actual drums- in some cases, such as “Viva La Vida”, Champion does not even use a drum kit, instead using floor toms and a timpani. It is also notable how much he has shied away from consistent cymbal accentuations and standard rock beats. Perhaps it’s for this reason that his double crash moment on lead single “Violet Hill” comes down upon the listener with an unexpectedly tremendous force that one would never associate with Coldplay’s music. Rapid-moving jazz brush patterns, such as the rollicking “Lovers in Japan”, as well as the minimalist, almost hip-hop styling of the beats in “Lost!” and “Yes” perfectly exemplify Champion’s headway of his role in the band.

Jonny Buckland’s guitar, as well, has made an angular shift away from his Edge-like work on X & Y; now attempting a sound similar to that of his namesake, Greenwood. His style moves in a chameleon-like fashion, from a dramatic, gritty David Gilmour style (“Violet Hill”) to a post-punk buzzsaw (the second half of “Yes”, entitled “Chinese Sleep Chant”). Ambient and unique guitar effects (such as the “reverse” effect on the guitar in “Strawberry Swing”) also emphasise his broadened six-stringed horizons. Even Chris Martin- a vocalist that is often limited at best- tries out ominous lower-key vocals on songs such as “Cemeteries in London” and “Yes”, adding a different dimension to songs already boldly different from the band’s past.

Chris Martin has boldly stated that he does not care if this record sells a million less copies than previous. X & Y sold ten million. Thus, if this idea does come to fruition, nine million fans both old and new will pick up Viva la Vida and experience the best thing these musicians have done with their careers. A dark horse of a record, it is versatile, adventurous and truly unexpected.
All you can really say is it sucks to be one of the million who’ll miss out.

LISTEN: www.myspace.com/coldplay



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user ratings (2049)
Chart.
3.6
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2008



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

fix up the paragraphs then ill read

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

SHOOTME
June 10th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol Eno kids.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2008



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

they're eno kids, non-conformist as can be

SHOOTME
June 10th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you mean:

they're eno kids, AS non-conformist as can be?This Message Edited On 06.10.08

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2008



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

“Yellow”, “Trouble”, “The Scientist”, “In My Place”, “Fix You” and “Speed of Sound” are all simply fantastic pop songs-


clocks, boy, clocks!

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2008



20855 Comments


Dave, to put it simply I think this is your best review yet (when ignoring the above legitimate nitpicks and the fact I actually think '... Rush ...' is their best album).
Your review actually gets me excited to hear the album, which is definitely a positive. Well done. Positive vote.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2008



20855 Comments


Dave, to put it simply I think this is your best review yet (when ignoring the above legitimate nitpicks and the fact I actually think '... Rush ...' is their best album).
Your review actually gets me excited to hear the album, which is definitely a positive. Well done. Positive vote.

AtavanHalen
June 11th 2008



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hey everyone, I meant to fix up the paragraphs earlier today but couldn't get onto the site just after I'd posted, very annoying.
Anyway, thanks for yr feedback and keep it coming. Cheers, Dave, especially for saying this is my best review.
I wouldn't usually put something like this up, especially given the other three reviews that all had a similar rating (and the fact Electric City's review is so damn good). But I worked hard at it over the weekend and felt I had to post it.

emogangstascotty
June 11th 2008



472 Comments


do u know how ur gay? u listen to Coldplay.

Iai
Emeritus
June 11th 2008



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

enogangstascotty

Mendigo
June 11th 2008



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

just about your opening paragraph: usually there's the saying that it's the third album, not the debut or the second one, that desides about a band's fate. and it's true surprisingly often

AtavanHalen
June 11th 2008



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've never really experienced that much, to be honest, apart from the examples I mentioned.

Krash100
June 11th 2008



37 Comments


To be honest, I didn't have much hope for this band after X&Y. I'll have to check this out now.

ninjuice
June 11th 2008



6759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet review, I think this is probably the album I'm anticipating most this year. Wish me doing another review wouldn't be so freaking redundant now.

Digging: Robin Skouteris - The King of ArtPOP

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2008



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

lol the paragraphs are still messed up.

Anyway, review's good, clearly a lot of effort was put into it, it's just a little choppy.

SHOOTME
June 14th 2008



2393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review.

upagainstthewall
March 9th 2009



838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review.
I was amazingly surprised when first listening to this album.
As i thought of Coldplay as a meh band. This album has hooked me into endless listens



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