“I don’t think bands should keep going past 33,” the now 34-year-old Chris Martin once told Britain’s Daily Express. But lo and behold, “old man” Martin and his merry quartet have churned out their fifth album since 2000, and another shoo-in to go platinum — make it five for five. Mylo Xyloto is a fairly obvious departure from 2008’s Viva la Vida, ditching the French Revolution-inspired strings for a bright palette of electric uppers and cushioned floaters. And as surely as the record will spawn its share of hits, Mylo Xyloto will be lampooned by its haters as one more step toward a pop-fueled sellout.
In fact, it’s fairly easy to point out where Martin (or his producers) tried to inject some popular demand into his work. “Princess of China,” the second single scheduled to be released, is overarching and sincerely captivating — until Rihanna bursts in (and won’t leave until the song ends). Though the single is sure to be popular among a variety of crowds, it becomes hard to stomach upon the realization that it could’ve been a veritable classic without the cameo.
However, that’s not to say Coldplay has left its dedicated fan base as an afterthought. On the contrary — Mylo Xyloto, underneath the thin concept of love in a gritty, graffitied world, is still your average Coldplay album (and really, aren’t they all?). “U.F.O.,” the modest two-minute interlude between the behemoth sounds in “Major Minus” and “Princess of China,” harkens back to the band’s origins in Parachutes. “Lord, I don’t know which way I am going,” sings Martin, and the delicate guitar couples with his vulnerability to create a surprising contender among the best tracks in the entire work.
Few bands can achieve the most redeeming aspect of Mylo Xyloto: a record-wide consistency of content. This achievement is even more pronounced when considering the dependability revealed in the British outfit’s four prior releases. Immediately after the album’s prelude, Coldplay reels off a three-round burst of heavyweights with “Hurts Like Heaven,” the eventual single “Paradise” and the recent crowd favorite “Charlie Brown.” While the latter has a straight path to the top of the charts, Mylo Xyloto rounds itself out appropriately with the deliberate and heavy “Up in Flames,” and the contrastingly elated “Up with the Birds.”
Longtime Coldplay fans received their first taste of the new material earlier this summer in the incarnation of “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.” The single is tremendously representative of the record as a whole — it isn’t afraid to turn to the synthesizers, but neither does it build around them. Inevitably, the listener is left with Martin’s soaring vocals and the impressively cohesive talents of the other band members.
Mylo Xyloto’s flashy, colorful cover isn’t a façade — the rainbow of graffiti seems to stem directly from the quality of its tracklist. And though Coldplay has taken a supposedly different course from its norm, such is the case with every work the band has completed since Parachutes. Eventually, one must realize that it’s almost always the same, be that favorable or abrasive. As much as the band changes, it never really differs. It’s Coldplay — don’t overthink it.