And assuming that we had no knowledge of any of Coldplay's previous 3 albums, and assuming that we had no idea of Coldplay's alleged greatness in today's music world. So without any comparison or benchmark, here's what I have to say.
"Life in Technicolor" is so aptly titled. An instrumental arrangement that gradually picks up in volume, texture and excitement, this album opener is so colourful it reminds you of a carnival. It gets your foot tapping and your head nodding. Some sources rumour that this song will be sung in words in Coldplay's next CD. The mood then glooms down when "Cemeteries of London" comes along. Sinister synthesizers flood the atmosphere and mysterious notes tinkle from the piano before the beats enter and the song erupts into a minor-key rock anthem. You'll find yourself singing "la la la la la" in no time. "Lost" bounds in, as track #3, with claps and a bouncy beat. Featuring some of the most intriguing lyrics (either deep or nonsensical will depend on you) - "just because I'm hurting, doesn't mean I'm hurt" and "just because I'm losing, doesn't mean I'm lost" - this song maintains the upbeat tempo throughout.
The mood becomes sombre once again at the beginning of "42". Apparently this is the favourite number of this band's lead singer. Anyway, by the time you finish pondering what makes 42, the number, so likeable, this song takes a sharp turn and rages forward, pounding drums screeching guitars and all. "42" finishes off back where it began - kinda like a fine day turning into a storm and becoming peaceful once again after the storm. Work of art. "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" is really 2 songs. "Lovers in Japan" sports a `happy' tune, with racing piano. If drums were replaced by a techno beat, it could easily pass off as the next hottest dance-pop tune in the vein of Dario G's "Sunchyme". "Reign of Love" is soothing, tranquil and relaxing. The vocals are gentle, cradled by softly played piano, all enveloped by warm synthesizers. Reminiscent of a walk in the garden in the evening.
"Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant" is once again 2 songs. "Yes" seems like it is sung by a different singer. Turns out it's not. Same singer, lower register. Interesting presentation. Dangerous sounding, minor-key tune. At the 1:33 mark, Arabic-flavoured strings add zest to the instrumental arrangement of the song. "Chinese Sleep Chant" could easily sit in the track listing of the soundtrack to "Lost in Translation". Guitar distortion and feedback, pounding drums, and a faded yet ethereal voice makes listening to this track a giddying sensation. You could be hypnotised.
"Viva La Vida". Remarkably intelligent songwriting. Encapsulates originality, creativity, artsiness and yet retains every element needed for commercialism. Chorus is catchy as ever. The bell and strings stick in your head - for a long, long time. "Roman cavalry choirs", "Jerusalem" and "St Peter" will pop up in your head a lot. Come minute mark 3:00, when the band erupts into "Oh oh oh oh oh", the song lift itself into the stratosphere, sweeping you along with it. "Violet Hill" comes next. A dark, brooding rock song, A piano-laced song, sprinkled with distorted electric guitar and a mean guitar solo - I'm inclined to call this rock song of the year. A little U2, a little Phil Collins, a little White Stripes - brilliant.
"Strawberry Swing" starts like a folk tune. The beats enter like tribal drums. Can you see yourself dancing around the fire? Catchy melody, immaculate instrumentation. "Death and All His Friends" is a piano-based song that starts with a gentle lullaby-ish chanting and builds up into a soaring and memorable crescendo, as the album bids you good-bye with a reprise of "Life in Technicolor", entitled "The Escapist". "Death and All His Friends" reminds you what a thrilling ride your musical senses have just been on. By the time this CD leaves you, you'd be eager to push play again.
"Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" is a most enjoyable listening experience that keeps getting better each time. Don't judge it in comparison to the 3 previous Coldplay CDs. This one is completely different but just as, if not more, haunting.
18 June 2008