Coldplay Ride the Charts with Mylo Xyloto

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Joined: 11/17/08
Posts: 303
Full Access
Joined: 11/17/08
Posts: 303
11/03/2011 6:20 pm

By fibercool (Coldplay@barcelona 2005) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons"

Coldplay debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart this week with their fifth studio effort, Mylo Xyloto. The eccentrically titled album, which hit shelves on October 24, is the third #1 debut for the British rockers, following their 2005 release X&Y and 2008's Viva La Vida. In its first week of release, Mylo Xyloto has sold nearly half a million copies.

From its zany technicolor cover art to its fantastical "us-against-the-world" concept, Coldplay continue to dabble in the kind of cool-weird artiness on Mylo Xyloto (pronounced my-lo zy-letoe) that they went for on Viva La Vida. According to frontman Chris Martin, the ambitious collection of songs is "based on a love story with a happy ending in which two protagonists (Mylo and Xyloto), who are living in an oppressive, dystopian urban environment, meet one another through a gang called The Lost Boys and fall in love." Lyrically, Mylo is peppered in political inspiration via New York graffiti culture of the 1970s (obvious in the cover art) and the student-led Nazi-resistance movement known as White Rose, both of which Martin has said influenced him, as did the HBO series The Wire.

Coldplay continue their evolution into untapped genres on Mylo, this time venturing into R&B, electronica and pop. (Rihanna makes a cameo, lending her voice on a song called "Princess of China.") With its mix of slow acoustic numbers, arena-ready anthems, and a dose of dance-pop, there's something for just about everyone on the album. The one constant remains the band's knack for writing music that is uplifting.

Although reviews for Mylo Xyloto have been mixed to positive, Coldplay haters are having a field day with the album, accusing frontman Chris Martin of everything from contrived lyrics, cloying sentimentality, and flimsy themes to music that is "devastatingly average" at best. Judging by the numerous blogs and Facebook pages devoted to trashing the band, seems anything this British quartet puts out is blood sport to this camp.

But Coldplay's fans are legion, and they eat the band's meditative, feel-good pop rock up. Their status as one of the most successful rock bands of the 2000s can't be denied, with sales in excess of 50 million worldwide and numerous Grammys to their name, including one for Record of the Year in 2004 for "Clocks." In December 2003, readers of Rolling Stone chose Coldplay as Best Artist and Best Band of the year.

Chris Martin (vocals/piano), Jon Buckland (guitar), Will Champion (drums), and Guy Berryman (bass) were all born into musical households and began playing instruments at a young age. The group's road to the top of the charts began in 1996 while they were classmates at the University College of London. After releasing three EPs to little notice, Coldplay broke wide open in 2000 with their hugely popular single, "Yellow," from their debut album, Parachutes. The album earned them a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and, after a first-rate performance at Glastonbury and their first tour of the US, Coldplay became one the hottest bands of the new millennium.

Drawing inspiration from artists like Kate Bush, Echo & the Bunnymen, George Harrison, and Muse, Coldplay continued to hone their mix of introspective Brit-pop and anthemic rock on their follow-up album, 2002's A Rush of Blood to the Head, which many consider to be the band's magnum opus. The album spawned several popular singles, including "In My Place," "Clocks," and the ballad "The Scientist." It scored Coldplay their second consecutive Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2003 as well as the 2004 Grammy for Record of the Year for the song "Clocks." During an extensive tour in support of A Rush of Blood to the Head, the group recorded a CD/DVD package called Live 2003 from a show at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion.

Coldplay's next album, the long-awaited X&Y, was released in 2005. With its electronic music influences, the album topped charts around the world, selling more than 8 million copies its first year. The singles "Speed of Sound," "Fix You," "Talk," "The Hardest Part," "What If," and "White Shadows" made X&Y the best-selling album of 2005, despite its mixed critical reception.

After deciding to take a break from recording to tour Latin America in early 2007, Coldplay reentered the studio with Brian Eno at the helm to cut their fourth album, Viva la Vida (Death and All His Friends). The record marked a new direction for the band, featuring less falsetto as Martin allowed his voice's lower register to take precedence. Viva la Vida won three Grammy Awards in the categories for Song of the Year, Best Rock Album, and Best Vocal Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

Which brings us to the curious Mylo Xyloto. Coldplay originally intended the new album to be a quiet, acoustic-based collection, but as their songs began to grow, the band quickly realized that their self-imposed parameters couldn't contain their ambitions, so they scrapped them and started from scratch. And, not surprisingly, Mylo Xyloto is a record that defies convention—and, of course, definition too.

"Very early on in the process of recording this record, we were playing a lot of acoustic instruments and we had it in our mind that we might try to record a small-sounding, intimate, reflective record," drummer Will Champion explains. "And [a song like 'Paradise'] came about, and it dawned on us that we couldn't play it in that acoustic style. So we thought, 'OK, we'll finish this one and then we'll do another record,' and the realization came very quickly that we can't really focus on more than one thing at once.

"So we decided to put everything in one basket, and some of those songs from the acoustic thing survived — the song 'Charlie Brown' was originally in that format and 'Us Against the World,' " he continued. "And I think putting all our eggs in one basket allowed us to kind of free everything up and allow the songs to dictate where they want to go."

"It's definitely a schizophrenic album ... it keeps changing sounds," Champion says. "That's why we called it such a strange thing, Mylo Xyloto. Because we felt like so many people have already made up their minds about us, both good and bad, that we can sort of start again from scratch."

From the looks of things, the good are crushing.


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