It’s been nearly two years since Coldplay released their fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto. When it was released, a few of my friends and I were pretty hyped for it, especially off the back of the two lead singles, which too weren’t bad at all. “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” and “Paradise” did phenomenally well, and both still pop up on the radio during the day. And yet, we were all monumentally disappointed.
The chief complaint I had at the time was that after one listen, I found it boring. Thinking back, this was an odd thing for me to say because I was part of the Viva La Vida cheer squad before many others came round to it, urging people to be open minded about the change in direction. With another significant change in sound on Mylo Xyloto, I didn’t judge it to be as surprisingly enjoyable as Viva La Vida because it felt like they were cashing in on a changed image. One of my friends complained about the apparent commercialism of the material.
Maybe they were, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mylo Xyloto is a strong album. Like X&Y, the band’s third album before it, almost half of Mylo Xyloto’s tracks have been released as singles around the world. For an album to have 14 tracks on it, with most about four minutes long, and still maintain a highly enjoyable quality across every track is something pretty special, and that’s something Coldplay can do well.
Granted, their lyrics are vacuous at times, and “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” is clearly an attempt at an “I Got A Feeling”-Black Eyed Peas-style party anthem, but the sound of the album is marvellous. Many complained it was over-produced, but I would argue that it’s spot on. It is widely acknowledged that Mylo Xyloto is a concept album. Concept albums always have a slightly different edge to them, often being quite experimental in their sound to aid the mental images that accompany the concept. Whilst I am reticent to buy into the story because I like listening to music for music’s sake, I’ll regurgitate the album’s supposed plot here.
According to Wikipedia, “the album tells the story of a war against sound and colour by a supremeist government, set in the world of “Silencia”, an Orwellian society. Silencia has been taken over by a supremist government, led by Major Minus, who controls the population through media and propaganda. His aim is to take sound and colour off the streets in hope to draw away “feeders”, creatures that use such energy to hunt its prey. The album follows two lead characters: Mylo, a “silencer”, who is one of an army tasked to hunt and track down “sparkers”, people who harness light and energy and use it to create sparks, comparable to graffiti in real life. He comes across Xyloto, a sparker who is the most wanted by Major Minus. Through Xyloto, Mylo discovers his sparker abilities and his affiliation with the “Car Kids”, a major sparker faction founded by Mylo’s parents Aiko and Lela.”
Concepts aside, when you consider the musical prowess that has gone into the production of this album, and the amazing soundscapes that are created – the opening of “Princess of China” being especially of note – it is hard not to be drawn in. Comparisons to Coldplay’s earlier albums are inevitable, but, as with my appreciation of Bond films, I try to consider each album on its own, for its own merits. When I listen to music, I focus on the tune and the general sound, with the lyrics never being as important to me. So what I get out of Mylo Xyloto might very well be quite different to what everyone else got out of it. I’m under no illusions that the heady heights of A Rush of Blood to the Head will likely never be reached by the band again, and nothing will ever beat “Don’t Panic” from Parachutes, but gee whiz, this album is not nearly as bad as I remember.
Finally, now the real reason I listened to the album again: Coldplay released a new track the other day, named “Atlas”. It’s for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games 2: Hungry Hungry Hippos*, and it impressed me a lot. I personally like the band’s more recent sound, and am really looking forward to whatever they do next.
*not actual title