Ah, Coldplay. This band's tunes may be well-crafted, well-played and ubiquitous, but their music has caused countless schisms among music fans. Certainly, popularity has rarely been a recommending virtue for diehard rock or indie types - the more disliked by the general public, the better - but even obscurists have been forced to admit that Coldplay's first three albums featured some superb tracks, relentlessly memorable and grandiose - if not quite worthy of their apparently unstoppable success. Viva La Vida, produced by Brian Eno, takes a different approach: rather than being a series of potential hits, this is a complete album, with only two or three heavyweight contenders for singles, the rest being even gloomier than usual, pensive and slightly (if safely) avant-garde. The Coldplay signatures remain - those pounding ostinatos, the Chris Martin wobbly falsetto - but he also experiments with the nearest he can get to a basso profundo in the excellent Velvet Underground-tinged Yes (listen to Venus In Furs: you'll understand). In fact, experiment is at the heart of this album: phrases unexpectedly curtailed, sampled strings thrown in at random and a distinctly prog-rock tone. An interesting development and a worthy album, but one more record like this and Coldplay risks treading into Spinal Tap territory.
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