Coldplay is one of those bands that everyone likes, but few are willing to admit it. Their first single, Yellow, was one of the few memorable songs that created instant bewilderment and appreciation. I’ll admit it – I’m a fan, and I have been since they first hit American radio. Over the last few weeks, their newest single has been featured in Apple’s commercials as an iTunes exclusive. And every time I see that commercial, I’m humming “That was when I ruled the world” to myself for the next couple of hours. Those dang iPod commercials. However, Viva La Vida became the first album in… I can’t remember how long that I’ve been excited about, and Best Buy became a (regretfully) essential destination today.
The opening (mostly instrumental) track, Life in Technicolor, sets the tone of the album. Coldplay is trying to make a statement: they fully intend to be a great band. In any other (current) band, this type of aspiration may seem pretentious. Yet, Viva La Vida is genuine, musically ambitious, and filled with sonic dynamics as Chris Martin and crew guides the listener across an auditory play land that is equally familiar and foreign.
Much remains from previous Coldplay efforts. The band stays true to their formula of driving acoustic rhythms coupled with U2 styled electric guitar riffs. Chris has kept his bi-polar vocal styling – swinging back and forth from hauntingly lulling balladeer to leader of anthemic choruses and sing-a-longs. And yet again I (willingly) suffer a bit of musical whiplash as Coldplay exhibits their tendency to begin with a funeral dirge and finish with joyous momentum; as best displayed in the fourth track 42.
Lyrically, the band remains introspective while leaving the songs’ true meanings open for interpretation. Thematically, the album seems to tackle grief and mourning. Some one once told me that funerals and memorials have three purposes: to remember those we lost, to celebrate life, and to reflect our own mortality. Viva La Vida clearly explorers all three of those aspects of remembrance. From the title track (Spanish for Living Life) to the closing track Death and All His Friends, the lyrics balance between hope and lament.
The band stays faithful to their influences without mimicking their inspirations. They’ve borrowed from some of the greatest (U2, The Cure, Radiohead, The Who, The Beatles) and made a sound uniquely their own. Viva La Vida is purely authentic Coldplay, as they blend their addictive melodies and Britpop genius with tribal drumming and symphonic groove. With Viva La Vida, Coldpay is four for four in releasing great albums. This is a band that has yet to reach a sophomore slump and hopefully never will.
I highly recommend Viva La Vida for any fan of music – even the most jaded music snobs who believe they have the most superior tastes in music.