It seems strange that both of Coldplay's latest efforts, this album and 'X & Y', were both released as summer blockbuster albums. The wintery darkness and rainy day melancholy that Chris Martin and his band do best seems strange when placed on the shelf with easier, breezier summertime artists such as Rihanna and Weezer. Nonetheless, this sweet, loaded offering by one of the biggest bands in the world right now, doesn't need a timely release date to be successful.
The first single from 'Viva La Vida', the absolutely brilliant "Violet Hill" (perhaps the band's best debut single to date) was the first clue that this album would not only meet, but surpass any Coldplay fans' expectations. The second single 'Viva La Vida' proved that Coldplay is a little more versatile than U2-style guitar riffing and lush, long, rainy day musical interludes. The rest of the album? Well, although not versatile as you may have heard or as 'different', 'Viva La Vida' has its shining moments of grandeur and heartfelt meaning.
It seems as though once again, Martin is attempting to blend his own angry, revolutionary political agenda with his sweet symphonic melodies, much like he did with both 'X & Y' and 'Rush of Blood to the Head'. What Martin lacks however, and the reason that this album is far from perfect, is a story to tell, both musicall and lyrically. While the music is good, it seems that its own sense of self seems somehow lost. What are they advocating for? Viva La Vida's own politics seem too complex and I missed the lyrical content of 'Rush of Blood', which seemed focused on love, soul-searching and the human soul rather than a collective call for revolution. In addition, while some of the songs are like nothing I've ever heard before, especially from Coldplay(the driving key riff of 'Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love' for example, and the downhome folky feel of 'Strawberry Swing'), some of the songs, such as the digital wall of sound number '42' sound like Radiohead, while the big chorus of 'Cemetaries of London' is remarkably reminiscent of U2. It isn't wrong to wear your influences on your sleeve, but some tracks being more experimental than others makes for, at times, a jarring and inconsistent effort.
Because of the glaring moments of sheer brilliance and that I think Coldplay is one of the few bands that will be remembered in 20,30, 40 years as true artists with style and longevity, this album is definitely worth buying, but if you are new to Coldplay, don't judge them based on this album. Perhaps start with 'Rush of Blood' first, a far better, more heartfelt, distinctive masterpiece.