Mylo Xyloto’ Has Immediacy, But Lacks Staying Power

Some bands spend a grueling amount of time in the studio because they wish to create an album of the utmost perfection, a sonic revelation that will appease fans and critics alike while making strides in the field of music. Others, however, are perfectly content to stick to the sound that had millions flocking to them in the first place. While Coldplay certainly falls into the latter category on its newest release, the Simmishly-titled Mylo Xyloto, it demonstrates a creative growth that extends beyond just different instruments and vocal styling. Xyloto is the type of album that must be played at full volume in massive fields and stadiums across the world, and that’s just the way Coldplay would like it.

Lead singer Chris Martin has clearly spent some time studying artists like Brian Eno (a collaborator on this album) and David Byrne in the years since Viva La Vida‘s release. Their presences are felt on painting-like songs like “Hurts Like Heaven,” the closest thing to an electronic track that Coldplay has ever produced. It is theatrical and sweeping, with an unforgettable chorus (“you used a heart like a weapon / and it hurts like heaven”) and a guitar that curls and unfurls on itself in brisk succession. It’s an upbeat song with an almost uncomfortable closeness that could cause a ruckus among live audiences.

It’s worth touching upon the fact that previously released tracks, “Paradise” and “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” are two of Coldplay’s strongest to date. An earthy organ leads the procession into “Paradise,” a grainy anthem that fuses quivering violins with synthesizers. The instrumental “M.M.I.X.” precedes “Waterfall” and gives the latter’s introductory notes a prolonged punch they had previously been missing. Martin’s vocals are at their strongest here, a stack of voices that shuffles between secular and religious in one cloudy mass. The tune joins “Yellow,” “Fix You,” and “Viva La Vida” as one of the band’s most noteworthy tracks.

Martin and his comrades designed songs like “Charlie Brown,” a clever and massive tune that draws upon Vince Giraldi’s classic, “Christmastime is Here,” for mass consumption. The album can barely withstand the song’s grand ambitions, its plunking keyboards and colossal vocals straining to break free of headphones and speakers. Lyrically, the song is lacking. When others like Arcade Fire have so masterfully tackled the rebellious-youth song (“We Used to Wait” and its ensuing video), fragments like “we’ll run wild / we’ll be glowing in the dark,” fail to make any noise at all.

One of Xyloto‘s most immediate songs is “Major Minus,” a word salad with spitting, toothed stanzas. With jagged vocals that sound as if they’ve been sifted through a subway grate, “Minus” sounds almost like a B-side to the band’s classic “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face.” The band revs hard with dystopian lyrics like, “they got one eye watching you / one eye on what you do,” but to soften the blow, follows it up with the transcendent and acoustic “U.F.O.” The balance is magnificent, one harsh and the other almost wilting under Martin’s gentle, balmy crooning.

Coldplay enlists Rihanna in its pursuit of a dance-anthem on “Princess of China,” which might be titled because of the vaguely Asian-inspired opening flourishes but otherwise bears no resemblance to its title. Nonetheless, the pairing of the Barbadian bombshell and the Brits oddly works, their vocals intertwining on the R&B decorated track in which language works best as sound. Rihanna’s voice sounds more beautiful than ever, lamenting that she “could’ve been a princess / you’d be the king” as the syncopated drums pound animatedly in the background. It is a striking departure from Coldplay’s previous work, and establishes some serious groundwork for the group’s next move.

Other tracks feature serious, thunderous experimentation that I wish could have been drawn out to completion. The beginning of “Up in Flames,” with its shattering bass drum, sounds like the music of Odd Future meets dubstep, both entirely out of Coldplay’s previous melodic realms. Sadly, the enrapturing track fades into the band’s typical sound within seconds, but the little eddies stand out.

In essence, Mylo Xyloto is a blueprint for concert sing-alongs, rife with perhaps a bit too much optimism that nevertheless brims with emphatic rhythms and character. It is a love story in every sense of the word, as Martin coaxes out sumptuous stories with every last breath–it’s a wonder that here, he never runs out. n



About Brennan Carley 80 Articles
Brennan Carley served as the Arts & Review Editor for The Heights in 2012. He's currently an Assistant Editor for Spin.