Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto (Coldplay finally turns into U2)

The comparisons have always been there. Since Coldplay apes much of what makes U2 unique: the simple yet somehow complex sounding guitar work, the marching drums, and the political lyrics, the comparison to U2 has merit. Mix in Chris Martin’s self importance, the fact that all Coldplay songs sound vaguely alike upon first listen, and Brian Eno as producer and the metamorphosis is complete. Coldplay is really the new U2 now, but sadly they don’t sound as good, interesting, or powerful as U2 did for years (and still do to me—although that’s an opinion that many would argue with, including many a former long term U2 fan). I suppose every alt-rock generation (a term that really doesn’t exist anymore, but I like to hold on to) needs a U2. U2 aren’t finished by any means though, even though their massive 20th Anniversary Edition of Achtung Baby is unbelievably only a week away. The guys from Dublin are still making interesting music. Coldplay, as a band, is now the reigning king of political/poetic/thinking man rock though. Like U2, you either love them or hate them. Strangely, I fall into a third rare, but not unknown category, I don’t hate them, but I definitely don’t love them. I guess I could say I like them as one likes a cold day. Exhilarating at first and almost beautifully melodic, but if it drags on too long, becomes numbing. Like a cold day, you have to just get inside and away from Coldplay after a bit, more often than not now, at least at this point in their career.

Mylo Xyloto, which “conceptually references the early NYC graffiti and various resistance movements” according to iTunes, is packed with the usual and subtly referenced leftist political activism. Nothing wrong there, Martin doesn’t really beat you over the head with it, as even I, as a fan of Bono (are there any others left?) will admit that Bono has done so annoyingly in the past. Besides, there’s plenty of right wing injustice to rail against out there, so I really can’t fault Martin for ranting once in a while. Some songs on Mylo Xyloto, such as “Us Against The World,” are so in the vein of what I call “quiet U2” though that Martin even sounds like Bono. So much so that I thought Bono was the big name guest on the album, not Rhianna. Rhianna…seriously? Um…forget that I referred to Coldplay as “alt-rock.” I think the Wikipedia definition of them as “post-Britpop” (whatever the hell that is) somehow sounds more fitting, simply because of its inclusion of the word “pop.”  The similarities to Brian Eno produced U2 don’t end with Martin’s best hushed Bono impersonation. The short intro track titled “M.M.I.X” which precedes the only song that still sounds like the old Coldplay on the album, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” sounds like a slower version of the synth intro to U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” from The Joshua Tree, and is much less uplifting. "M.M.I.X." even borrows the U2 penchant for anagram song names ("MLK" anyone?) Eno must be losing his touch. “Major Minus” is a U2 song for all intents and purposes. It is the song on the album in which Coldplay most closely mirrors the U2 practice of actually rocking every once in a while as well. “Major Minus” moderately rocks, like some of the best U2 songs, but Jonny Buckland’s Brian Eno-washed guitar sounds exactly like The Edge’s Eno-washed guitar. This is not an exaggeration. Buckland’s guitar sounds JUST like The Edges' Eno produced guitar sounds during “Major Minus’” chorus. While The Edge is still one of the most vibrantly unique rock guitarists that ever played, mostly because of his mastery of unique pedal magic, one cannot refrain from wondering, since Buckland’s guitar sounds SO much like The Edge’s, just how much of that magic really needs to be attributed to Eno, in reference to both guitarists’ sounds.

Overall, while Mylo Xyloto is a listenable Coldplay/Brian Eno album that plays well in short spurts, all it really does is make the fan of political/poetic/thinking man rock, which is a label that is still much more applicable to U2 than Coldplay (Coldplay is now more pop than ever), pine for more quality music from U2, in the vein of Achtung Baby and that is…      

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