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Coldplay - Viva La Vida

Released on Capitol records 6/17/08

Given the ridiculous anticipation and expectations surrounding Coldplay’s latest effort, it’s hard to imagine Viva La Vida not disappointing on some level. But, Coldplay has nailed down perhaps the most commercially successful pop/rock blueprint since U2. While U2 has a much lengthier resume, it’s hard to argue the broad appeal Coldplay has, which at least rivals that of U2. Viva La Vida feels like a transitional effort in some respects as there are some sonic qualities that are definitely a departure from what Coldplay has offered in the past. But, there’s still plenty of the Coldplay chemistry to satiate the hungriest fan.

While not a radical departure, Coldplay makes it clear Viva La Vida is a bit different from their previous efforts with the instrumentally infectious track, "Life in Technicolour". While not an exceptional track in of itself, "Life in Technicolour" has a sound and feel that is strikingly familiar. But the fact that the track is devoid of lyrics and seamlessly incorporates some sweeping Middle-Eastern instrumentation make a bold statement right off the bat that we’re in for something a bit different with this album.

Reminding us that Coldplay hasn’t changed that much is "Lost", a track that in many ways is reminiscent of "Fix You" (at least, lyrically). "Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost", sounds like a refrain that easily could have followed, "When you love someone and it goes to waste…what could be worse?" "Lost" is a reminder of how Coldplay has managed to achieve such universal appeal. Chris Martin and crew always seem to be able to tap into universal feelings of imperfection, loss, and love and weave these feelings into tracks of near musical perfection. "Lost" is not in the same category as "Fix You", but covers similar terrain.

We don’t really uncover the iconic Coldplay tracks that inevitably get played to death for eons on air and are almost inevitably co-opted for advertisements until the latter stages of the album. Not surprisingly, "Vida La Vida" is the first such track. It grabs you right away with dramatic violins and church bells chiming; "Viva La Vida" is Coldplay at their most potent. The melodies are powerful, emotive, and epic. The lyrics speak to the ephemeral nature of power and fame, not that Coldplay would have any familiarity with this. "Viva La Vida" seems almost tongue in cheek given Coldplay’s staying power. But, it seems a bit refreshing that Martin acknowledges on some level that when you’re on top, a fall is almost inevitable.

"Violet Hill" is perhaps the only other track from Viva La Vida that will get the kind of attention and airplay of 'Viva La Vida". The album as a whole is probably the least memorable of their four studio albums. But, that is not to say there aren’t plenty of tracks worth playing time and again. But, there is a brevity and transitional feeling to Viva La Vida that is unmistakable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s album worth owning, but just don’t expect 10 classic tracks. What will be interesting to see is how Coldplay will follow up Viva La Vida.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars