Review Summary: When it comes down to it, Prospekt's March is an inconsistent, but incredibly exciting half-hour of music.
Viva La Vida is, as I write this review, the biggest-selling album of 2008. Granted, that doesn't mean as much as X&Y's 13 million copies in 2005, but the point still stands - the panic at EMI has settled considerably since June. So with their first UK number 1 under their belts - the epic title-track - numerous prestige awards, and even a brief spell of critical semi-acclaim, we have just one question. Why on EARTH are Coldplay giving us more?
Wrapped pretentiously in another Eugene Delacroix painting and billed as an extension of the band's 4th LP, the curiously named Prospekt's March comes just 5 months after Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends hit the shelves. It is an 8-track release from arguably the world's biggest band, it features a collaboration from Jay-Z and three of its tracks are actually remakes of tracks from Viva. Surely, this is commercial rubbish to be avoided at all costs.
The first thing to note is that this is not an album in the traditional sense. The inclusion of Lost+ (that's the Jay-Z effort) and Lovers In Japan [Osaka Sun Mix] (basically a radio edit) renders the EP's flow somewhat fractured in nature. What is strange is that the band clearly acknowledged this - the two aforementioned tracks are 6 and 7 respectively - but still chose to place a new song AFTER them on the tracklisting. So who knows; maybe it was meant to flow after all.
Life in Technicolor ii, the re-working of Viva's opening instrumental, sounds as much as anything like a cop-out - a way of squeezing the last ounces of life out of a very credible song. In actual fact, the LP track did originally have the vocals anyway, but they were stripped off because it sounded like an 'obvious single'. It's very hard to argue with that point of view, but when you ignore its role as a marketing tool and just play the damn song, it stuns you into silence. Coupled with some of Martin's best lyrical work ever (granted, that doesn't say TOO much) - 'gravity, release me/don't you ever hold me down/now my feet won't touch the ground' - the uplifting twang of Buckland's guitar, amongst the rest, provides for an inspiring and infectuous chorus. The decision to remove the sample of Jon Hopkins' ambient 'Light Through The Veins' from the beginning of the song is also a good move for the sake of immediacy.
Postcards From Far Away is a very intriguing piano piece lasting just 48 seconds, but it serves as a very compelling interlude between two songs so bombasting they would otherwise be competing for attention; it's slightly more than that, of course, and serves as evidence that Martin could probably write film scores were he that way inclined. Then Glass of Water kicks in. With a vaguely interesting guitar line, the mid-tempo beat and the trademark piano, you could be forgiven for thinking this would turn into Coldplay-by-numbers right until just after the minute mark where the song explodes into an anthemic chorus with raging riffs, earthquake-sized drums and Martin's falsetto pleading through it all. At the end of track 3, you are wondering whether it's the best thing they've ever done. It's certainly, save Politik, the heaviest.
The rest of the EP, ignoring Lost+ and LiJ, is much more mellow than tracks 1 and 3 would have you believe; Rainy Day is an odd, often confusing number which edges a little too close to video game music, but is still strangely captivating, and Davide Rossi's violectra adds an extra layer of experimentation. The first verse is also probably drummer Will Champion's finest hour of both Viva and Prospekt's March, although he is strangely anonymous in the second half of the song. The title-track is a frankly beautiful Parachutes-esque effort with the rawest vocals Martin has released since that very album, and it works to fantastic effect; lyrically brilliant and emotionally uplifting, the song jostles with Glass of Water as the best on offer here.
The closer, Now My Feet Won't Touch The Ground, smacks of Johnny Cash and actually pays homage to Til' Kingdom Come, the hidden track of X&Y. It's almost filler, but really, it's just a sweet way to close out the album, and it ties up some of the lyrically loose-ended threads that run through Viva and Prospekt's March.
It's fair to say that Prospekt's March is Coldplay's most eclectic collection of songs ever. With bitesize incorporations of rap, strings and horns alongside the typical Coldplay arrangement, it promises something for everyone. You can't help but wonder if, had two or three of these tracks been worked into Viva somewhere, they would have held a truly masterful album in their hands. At times, Rainy Day is too odd to label as 'different'; at others, it is dance-able and quirky. When it comes down to it, Prospekt's March is an inconsistent, but incredibly exciting half-hour of music.