Can a new audience fall in love with Chris Martin falling in love with Rihanna?
It’s a bit of an optical illusion, saying that Coldplay’s new “Mylo Xyloto” runs 14 tracks long. Three of them are instrumental interludes and intros. One of them should have been trimmed. And one doesn’t belong on this album altogether.
Frontman Chris Martin took visual cues from graffiti and historical inspiration from places like Nazi-occupide Germany to inform his “let’s get out of this town” narrative, as restless boy meets troubled girl and they fly/float into destruction. It, of course, ends with the boy finding solace as he looks toward heaven and hope. Of course.
In this regard, the the British quartet have made a complete and fitting album, this their fifth full-length. “Mylo” comes on the heels of immensely, astronomically successful “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends” (2008), the first marriage of Chris Martin’s familiar melodies and Jonny Buckland’s friendly guitar lines with Brian Eno. The veteran producer helped turn some of the sad-sacking into arena-sized laments (see: “Lost?” vs. “Lost!”) and a four-on-the-floor rocker into one of the best-known singles from that year (the album’s “Viva La Vida”).
Here, Eno’s attributions of size and texture remain the same, though the triumph of each song is limited to Martin’s capability of coming up with a melody that sounds new and trustworthy. And with Martin, that’s always a hazy indefinable: with his strongest songs, I’m left dumbstruck that those melodies haven’t ever been written before, and I’m merely glad they finally made their way out. They’re so familiar, sing-songy, like the children’s stuff of “Princess of China” or the stupid-sticky sweetness of “Paradise. But then there's excellent “Charlie Brown,” which recalls Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down,” or “Hurts Like Heaven,” played with a body-shaking “Keep the Car Running” thump. (Buckland, on the other hand, owes fantastical royalties to the Edge for "Us Against the World.")
These aren't bad songs, though. And Martin most accomplished on the album’s earliest single, “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” the titles and lyrics to which played second fiddle to the bagpipe-like guitar riff and – yes – the return of four-on-the-floor. And perhaps that is the most major downside to Martin’s melodic architecture: it comes at the expense of mediocre lyrics.