Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay’s latest album, was supposed to be a new name, two undefined words pieced together. But it seems like a gross misrepresentation to give a new name to an album that is simply a rehashing of old music.
Mylo Xyloto is not that much different from the albums of Coldplay’s past and not that much better, if at all. This album does have more of an electronic influence than Coldplay’s last album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, but this exists in subtle machinations, not in an outright break with tradition. The album is, however, a testament to the consistency of this band’s ability to produce solid music. It is a sprawling signature of their sound, signed with the unnecessary flourishes of a fancy ballpoint pen.
The introduction to Mylo Xyloto sounds muffled, as if it were happening under water. The ripples of xylophone sounds wash over into the subsequent tracks, eventually becoming undercurrents of the entire album. Water is evoked constantly through lyrics that mention how it takes multiple forms, from teardrops to rivers — until the eleventh track, called “Up in Flames” which has the harsh sound of an irregular heartbeat, losing the fluidity that existed early on.
Lead singer Chris Martin’s voice radiates with the familiarity of a chance encounter with a long-lost friend. It is refreshing to hear that scratchy smoothness again, especially in “U.F.O.” and “Up Against the World,” two tracks in which Martin croons carefully into the microphone, directly into the ears of his listeners.
The album flows seamlessly, with special attention given to the fluidity of transitions between tracks. The ebb and flow of the sound is seen through the undulation between loud upbeat songs and soft slow songs. There is a give and take between these two rhythms similar to the way that tide rolls in and out. The album ends on a weaker note than it begins, but the cohesion of Coldplay’s sound is undeniable.
Even Rihanna sounds less like her usual shrill self in “Princess of China,” but she still destroys a song that might actually have been good if she hadn’t been in it. With painfully cliche lyrics like “I could’ve been a princess; you’d be a king/Could have had a castle and wore a ring,” the only real function of the song is to please Rihanna fans. It is a somewhat grotesque sore on the face of the album.
“Charlie Brown” is one song that is quintessentially Coldplay: The brisk beat that lends itself to swaying and bobbing and the musical arrangement that alternates between quiet guitars and sudden bursts of Will Champion’s drums. The images contained in the lyric, “Stole a key, took a car downtown where the lost boys meet” are beautifully arbitrary. All this creates the Coldplay mood, where things are vague and colorful and sometimes sad.
“Paradise” is a song on the edge of an epiphany. With its ethereal echoes and murmurs, the song truly emulates the magic of the narrative that it tries to convey — that of a girl’s escape to another world. “Every teardrop is a waterfall” is the usual uplifting anthem imprinted with the mark of their success. The lyrics resound with beautiful clarity. “Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes,” is reflective of Coldplay’s current moment of weightlessness at the apex of their high flying act.
For Coldplay, it does not seem that a fall from the trapeze is what lies ahead. It is hard to fall when you don’t take any real risks.