Here is an album that I was genuinely ecstatic about months before it released. Mylo Xyloto is the fifth studio album by renowned British group, Coldplay. The concept record
(which was originally meant to be the soundtrack for an animated film) follows the love story of two protagonists, Mylo and Xyloto, who are living in a despotic society. It may sound far-reaching or too ‘out there’ for some, but Coldplay marries the continuity of the storyline and great music with finesse.
“Hurts Like Heaven” kick-starts the album with a thousand watts of euphoric guitar riffs and a peppy back-beat. Martin sings, “You use your heart like a weapon, and it hurts like heaven!” It’s an irresistibly catchy track and establishes the joyful narrative of the record.
“Paradise” and “Princess Of China” show a completely different side of Coldplay. The former is a hybrid of heavy, synthesized bass and a powerful piano line; simply put, it’s a hook with a lot of musical substance. The latter— which probably sent many Coldplay fans into shock—is a full-fledged hip-hop track and features none other than Rihanna (whom the song was originally written for). As the title suggests, it has an interesting oriental flair throughout. While I was a bit dissatisfied with the lack of Chris Martin’s vocals, I think the collaboration was a smart move that will garner new fans who’ll perhaps find Mylo Xyloto more palatable than its predecessors. The hip-hop twist doesn’t end there. I won’t lie; when I first heard a live version of “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall,” I was somewhat prejudiced. Phrases like ‘selling out’ and ‘lacking musical and lyrical integrity’ came to mind. But after hearing the song performed live at Austin City Limits, it has been cemented in my mind as abounding fun. It really grows on you if you let it!
“Charlie Brown” is without a doubt my favorite song on the album. It’s peppered with unusual, high-pitched singing and erupts into a flurry of effervescent guitars. The song sits on your skin like electricity, making your hair stand on end excitedly before each chorus. It’s an absolute joy to listen to.
“Major Minor” is a standout on the album; it has a lot of attitude, both musically and lyrically. As Martin sings the line, “Hear those crocodiles ticking, they go ticking ‘round the world,” Will Champion’s drumming replicates the sound of a ticking clock; nice touch!
Veteran Coldplay fans shouldn’t feel completely alienated by Mylo Xyloto; some beautiful ballads are found in “Us Against The World,” “Up In Flames” and “U.F.O.” Although the latter is only a touch over two minutes long, it’s full of heart and definitely holds its own on the album. The song starts off with an acoustic guitar and blooms with rich strings. In the beautiful lyrics Chris sings, “I know, I swear, we’ll find somewhere the streets are paved with gold. Bullets fly, split the sky, but that’s all right, sometimes, sunlight comes streaming through the holes.”
“Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” is the exuberant prelude to the grand finale, “Up With The Birds;” it’s a fascinating hybrid of wistful piano, strings, and ambient sounds. Half way through the song changes, ending with a soaring acoustic accord. Upon completion, the album delivers a happy ending feeling which is exactly what the band set out to do. Martin explained to MusicWeek, “Well, I think we wanted to do an album this time with a happy ending and I think we’ve actually done it, which we never thought we’d do.”
For many Coldplay fans, Parachutes and A Rush Of Blood To The Head have cast increasingly long shadows; they are hurdles that fans can’t seem to leap over. For those who will be eternally pining for the somber, piano-driven Coldplay of old, Mylo Xyloto is
probably a stab in the heart (it all sounds very dramatic, I know). But anyone willing to let go of their musical inhibitions will be delighted with the bold and vivacious spirit of this album. I certainly am!