Why mess around with things when the last album you made was your best? Ah, but it wasn't well-received by the critics, and Chris Martin clearly cares about his band's credibility.
So Brian Eno is brought in to add something new to Coldplay. Let's face it, if you want to change your sound then go to Brian Eno - he might not overhaul you entirely, but he'll add enough to at least prove you're trying. And such is the case with the fourth Coldplay album.
I expected a five/six minute experimental opener, instead it's a 2½-minute tune soaked in atmosphere but with no vocals. Silly or brave?
Silly is the fact the album takes a good ten minutes to get going. The first three tracks amount to nothing less than the worst Coldplay album opening sequence to date. Indeed, it's not until "42" that Chris Martin manages to get that melancholy tone back that I breathe a sign of relief. But then what's this - a minute and a half in, "42" turns all funky. Now I can clearly hear Eno's influence - several tracks on Viva La Vida
break apart in the same way, offering different songs within a song.
"42" leads nicely into the album's best track, the multi-part, 7-minute "Lovers In Japan" ... first half Coldplay pop, second half a lovely rolling piano thing soaked in atmosphere. The free download single "Violet Hill" sounds ever-so-slightly different, whilst still being Coldplay. And the title track is similar, although still hinting at the grandiosity that Eno is trying to beat out of the band. The closing track is another highlight - "Death and All of His Friends" being the second half of the rather long full album title - Viva La Vida or Death and All of His Friends
For all of Eno's atmospherics and tinkling noises, Viva La Vida
is very firmly a Coldplay album. It's unlikely to win over new converts, but existing fans will find much to enjoy here. Rated:
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews