Coldplay
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends


4.5
superb

Review

by Knott- EMERITUS
March 18th, 2011 | 68 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Carpe Diem.

Sometimes it takes that little bit of blind inspiration to break from the mundane. That fuck it mentality can be dangerous, but that's sort of the point, right" We can live our lives flatlining or we can actually take risks. Ships are pretty safe in the harbour but that's not what ships are built for. So it went between 2005's X & Y and 2008's Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, the breaking point for Coldplay being the homogenous space-rock mediocrity of their third studio album, in spite of its colossal sales figures. As Martin put it, it was a case of "getting better rather than bigger." And so the rigid creative processes of a decade of chart hits snapped at the centre; the band hired Brian Eno to bring out the unpredictable in their music and leave harbour for a change. And Viva La Vida is the depiction, the reflection, the encapsulation of that risk.

Precarious, then, because if it sucked the critics would be sneering that pop bands should stick to being pop bands and keep it simple, but not only does it not suck, they're going to be clamouring for more. From the outset it's clear that something has changed, something intangible; it's the same clean-cut conversation with a group of polite Brits, but wait, what's that" Ambient introductions" World influences" Ambitious song structures" The latter is the most important; the rest can be gimmicks, tacked on to attract labels like 'experimental' and 'branching out', but no, these are not false panels at all. You can see it in the way that Coldplay are still unapologetically Coldplay, in the plain and simple plea of lead single 'Violet Hill': 'if you love me, won't you let me know"

And it's OK, now, to let them know. The guilty pleasure nature of some of this band's back catalogue dissolves; these songs move with rhythm and poise, incorporating organs on 'Lost' and shoegaze walls of sound on 'Chinese Sleep Chant' and fucking bells on the phenomenal - simply inspiring - 'Viva La Vida'. Each song is an entirely organic and flowing piece of excellence, even as 'Death And All His Friends' moves from the understated kind of piano Martin always did well to the epic kind of climax Coldplay never had the courage to reach for before now. The only way Viva can look pretentious or over-ambitious is in the context of the banal offerings before it; that is to say, in and of itself it is seamless and gorgeous, nothing more and nothing less.

Even the core elements of the sound that made Coldplay arguably the world's biggest band step up their game, particularly Martin's lyricism. Let's not pretend the frontman's ever been trite; sure, at times his words are simple, but they're rarely simplistic - remember 'Politik's 'give me love over this'" And there's more of that beautiful connection here, but it's elevated to another plane by what surrounds it: the vastly deeper music, sure, but also the tangible images of cemeteries and fields that before were empty spaces of ambiguous nouns like 'hope' and 'love'; here those dimensions are represented by something in our own world, and it pays dividends.

Despite the overarching title and the band's apparent thematic obsession with revolution, Viva La Vida is never billed as a concept album, but beneath the surface-level leap in ambition, it truly is an accidental masterpiece. Through its 10 songs - 13, if you view the three 'double tracks' in that way - it struggles with the fear of death on '42' and the fear of being trapped by love on 'Reign of Love' and the fear of opening up on 'Cemeteries of London.' But in the end it learns its lessons; 'Violet Hill' urges honesty, 'Strawberry Swing' evokes so many grins in its desire to 'curve away', and the incredible closer peaks amid a breathtaking four-part harmony likely to induce heart attacks on first listen.

And these are words you couldn't have used before about Coldplay, however much you adored their straightforward tone and immense hooks: 'breathtaking'; 'incredible'; 'masterpiece'. And this is the entire point of Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, both in its internal content and in its external context; that however comfortable things might be, sometimes the rewards are ample - nay, deserved - payoff for the risks involved. Coldplay could have made another X & Y with another seven 'Fix You's and three 'Speed of Sound's. But Viva La Vida isn't impressive because of some detached value judgement as to how it's nice to see them be ambitious; it's impressive because their ambition manifests itself in these glorious, enormous and expansive songs of temptation, desire and fulfilment. Carpe fucking Diem.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
March 18th 2011


10204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I listened to this album roughly 6 times a day for the first month that this was out. I fell absolutely in love and in the aftermath of that obsession I couldn't work out what I thought about it actually, musically, critically, and even personally, until a very short time ago. So here you are, Sputnik. : )

BigHans
March 18th 2011


29379 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The "double" tracks on this piss me off royally.



Example: the first parts of 42 and and Yes pretty much suck, but the 2nd parts are fucking awesome. I don't get why they had to do that, its like they were trying to hard to be epic.



That said, its a good album, Life In Techicolor is stunning.

Apollo
March 18th 2011


10677 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

album is pretty average

BassDemon333
March 18th 2011


3435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They are taking a long time to release their next album. Hope its good though.

ohfoxxxycole
March 18th 2011


4352 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

loved this cd when it came out for a week and then havent listened since =[

STOP SHOUTING!
March 18th 2011


779 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

alright i'll give it another listen.

SeaAnemone
March 18th 2011


21407 Comments


hey.



this isn't Waior's review.

Knott-
Emeritus
March 18th 2011


10204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hell no it isnt its way relevanter than that piece of personal shit



; )

letsgofishing
March 18th 2011


1216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album was shocking...



as it was thought to be scientifically proven that Coldplay couldn't make anything but shit. And then this happened....what the hell.

Tyrael
March 18th 2011


21112 Comments


Knottastic review.

BigHans
March 18th 2011


29379 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

much like 42 and Yes off this album, the first half of Fix You is terrible, second half is amazing. At least its a cohesive track though.

qwer7yfreak
March 18th 2011


486 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like this review.

kangaroopoo
March 18th 2011


3175 Comments


Couldn't get into this, much prefer their previous albums

Aids
March 18th 2011


24456 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

just dropping by to show off my 5



hey



(nice review)

Romulus
March 18th 2011


8505 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review/album



or we can actually takes risks




check that bit though

Knott-
Emeritus
March 18th 2011


10204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh damn cheers!

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 18th 2011


28373 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This album totally changed my perspective on Colplay. I think it is timeless, one of those albums that people will still be appreciating 30 years from now.



Excellent write up as usual Adam.

Digging: Julia Holter - Aviary

CounterClockwise
March 18th 2011


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just dropping by, to tell you that I love the review... pos`d

Aids
March 18th 2011


24456 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"This album totally changed my perspective on Colplay. I think it is timeless, one of those albums that people will still be appreciating 30 years from now."



123, to every bit of that post

bloc
March 18th 2011


52995 Comments


Cemeteries of London is my favourite

Digging: Sparks - No. 1 in Heaven



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