The beginning of Viva La Vida is almost the strongest part of the entire album. The pulsing electronic sound is met with an incredible array of strings and beats, which builds and swells in ways that honestly, none of us were sure Chris Martin and the boys would ever be able to do again. After the clunker X&Y bored us to tears, we felt tears of hapiness to hear the "oh oh oh" come in on the records opening track, "Life in Technicolor." And it felt like a transition to color from X&Y's bland, black and white graveyard of mediocre power ballads and falsetto droning. Coldplay, it seems, has found their way back to the map.
This album is the natural progression from 2002's Rush of Blood to the Head. The songs are certainly the next level of admirable tracks like "Rush of Blood." However, don't mistake this for progress... it's really just the stronger points of Coldplay's songwriting, jazzed up and accented by salvage artist Brian Eno. Eno has saved many a career with his producing, and brining him in was if anything, a smart move. The result isn't any groundbreaking lyrics or amazing new melodies... simply that we get the best of what Coldplay has to offer, instead of the worst.
"Just because I'm easy, doesn't mean I'm lost"
"The Scientist," which we're all entirely sick of hearing amateur pianists play in droves, is still a great song. And it still hasn't met it's equal on the new album, which is the challenge for a group contending to be "the best band in the world." You must, as a rule, beat yourself. The only challenge a band like Coldplay has left is to create a song that is bigger, bolder, and more powerful than their best work. So far, they haven't quite done it. "Viva La Vida" is a good track, with pumping strings and a nice beat, but the lyrics fall short of truly inspirational. ("I used to rule the world/seas would rise when I gave the word") "Violet Hill" is strong both musically and lyrically, but again, does not top the power of the raw, real "Scientist." "Lovers in Japan" is also a fairly strong track, which works both on the album version and in the acoustic version (available on the iTunes download, which we kind of like better). Close, but not quite. And then there are duds like "Yes," which aren't anything special, and bring down the overall score. And "Reign of Love" is anything but sympathetic sounding. It's a surprisingly weak attachment to a strong track like "Japan" Even the title is kind of silly.
"If you love me, won't you let me know"
We still love you, Chris. Remember the comparisons are all retrospective; saying the album is "mediocre" is only in reference to past work and what we expect from so called "super-stars". If this was a debut of a band straight off the streets of Manchester, we'd be floored. But with the money, the experience, the influence, and the chops, the gang can do better than this. They want to be the best band in the world, so they make a decidedly new, but middle of the road record. The problem with pleasing everybody is, you don't really impress anyone. To be truly groundbreaking, you have to piss someone off. Take more risks. There is still time for Coldplay to knock our socks off. We're waiting. - joe puglisi