Album review: Coldplay's 'Mylo Xyloto'
It can’t be easy being Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin, with so many critics working overtime to justify their contempt, picking apart his band’s words not for enjoyment but in a search for the cheesiest mixed metaphors, listening to melodies not for pleasure but to uncover the most obvious borrowed musical idea — “U.F.O.” sounds way too much like Big Star’s “Try Again,” for example — scouring every Hallmark-ian reference to nature, time passing and the struggles of life in a never-ending search for a chink in his (elegantly casual) armor.
It’s not going to get any easier for Martin and the rest of Coldplay after “Mylo Xyloto,” Album No. 5, which sees the most appealingly unoriginal band of the ’00s continuing on its path of least resistance by offering vague, neutral opening lines such as “Once upon a time somebody ran away.” That’s the first lyric of “Princess of China,” a song about fading love with telegraphed rhymes (“Once upon a time we burned bright/ Now all we ever seem to do is fight”) that read bland on the page and are rendered tiny and inconsequential when coupled with the heavily produced beat that surrounds them.
“Life goes on, it gets so heavy/ The wheel breaks the butterfly,” Martins sings repeatedly on “Paradise,” never fully connecting the butterfly, the wheel, or how one broke the other, while the rest of the band delivers just enough variation on the Coldplay template to protect themselves from charges of self-plagiarism.
The only thing Coldplay could do at this point to shake away its platitudinal reputation — besides never again rhyming the words “pain” with “rain,” as Martin does on “Up With the Birds” — would be to risk everything by kicking its singer out of the band and hiring Peaches or somehow resurrecting punk nihilist GG Allin from the grave. Of course, that’s not the band’s charge. Coldplay is an expert at pleasure or at least poking into pockets of emotion without disturbing anything too much. Every touch of lyrical bitterness is followed by enough sugar to mask the taste, which might be good in the short term but isn’t a recipe for long-term health.
One and one-half stars (out of four)
— Randall Roberts
Update, Oct. 24, 7:05 p.m.: The original version of this post misidentified a song title when quoting its lyrics. The song in question is "Paradise," not "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall."