Tuesday, November 1

Album Of Last Month

Coldplay 'Mylo Xyloto' (Parlophone)

"I think this will be our last record," recently declared Chris Martin, leader of the biggest (soft) rock band in the world and a man so troubled he refuses to believe his Grammy-winning, multi-million-shifting band actually have any fans unless 70,000 of them are chanting 'Yellow' back at him inside Wembley Stadium. If it wasn't for Martin's you're-only-as-good-as-your-last-song paranoia, however, we wouldn't already have four very consistent Coldplay albums. And now, just over two years after said-Wembley shows wound up their 'Viva' era, here comes record number five - but does it prevail?

Well, 'Mylo Xyloto' (a name concocted after it picked up no Google results… there's now over 20 million) is plainly the happiest these have ever sounded. Whether Martin has finally nursed himself over the haters is hard to tell, but there's a zeal and unashamed drive for good-ol' nuggety pop here that Coldplay have scarcely paraded before. The jingly jangles and sonic swishes hinted at on 'Viva' are vim'd up in full techno-colour, almost like van Gogh's 'Starry Night' is alive for the 3D generation.

This montage of bright, shiny chords and Red Bull-jerked vigour, no doubt stalked from one-of-four producers Brian 'I created ambience' Eno, can feel tousled at points. And 'Princess of China' - the much-awaited Rihanna team-up - does curiously bulge out of nowhere. Even so, these really are trivial scuffles with yet another remarkable Coldplay record, inhabited with fervency, bald-faced pop and yes, a concept.

Mylo and Xyloto are two oppressed lovebirds battling for one another, you see (what else is a contented family man gonna write about, anyway?!) 'Hurts Like Heaven' is where it all takes off, a fiery out-the-blocks statement of intent - one not so felt since 'Politik' - as Martin chants, "You use your heart as a weapon, and it hurts like heaven," for the double-barrelled lovelorn chorus. The cutely-named 'Charlie Brown' also follows the line of resoluteness, while recent single 'Paradise' might just be the most FM moment of them all... least till RiRi comes calling.

There's about three songs fashioned nearly entirely devoid of synth, of which 'U.F.O.'s stripped-down, arresting beauty is enough to make Ed Sheeran et al fire themselves now in respect. Our assured leader tenderly sings of how Mylo and Xyloto have found each other, yearning for "somewhere the streets are made with gold". It brings to mind the heartfelt romance of 'WALL-E', while the graceful acoustic-picking going on behind will most likely have the sensitive blubbering.

As far as Rihanna is concerned, though, it's not so much the collaboration that's troubling - heck, Martin once penned a tune for Nelly Furtado - but her breathy vocals on 'Princess of China' just don't sit right among the rest of the album. The track's hard-and-fast throbs and dreamlike passage work wonders, with her and Martin in a lilting bellow, "You stole my star, la la la la la la la, la la la la la la la," yet it all feels too out-of-place here.

Leonard Cohen is next to lend his artistry, although only through a sample in closer 'Up with the Birds'. Not quite the end-of-dance ballad one might expect, Jonny Buckland gets to remit looping guitar lines under Martin's suddenly low crooning and a set of divine soft keys. "But I know one day, good things are coming our way," he calls out as the record crosses the finishing line. It's a majestic ending of love and hope defeating the whole schmear - and after all is said and done, isn't that what this band are for?

'Mylo Xyloto' is unashamedly pop and a collective feeling safe in their own skin (that includes Martin), something which Coldplay should be applauded for. And while 'X&Y' at 13 tracks outstayed its welcome only slightly, 'Mylo Xyloto' is one more and simply doesn't. If anything, you'll be left wondering what happens next… That said, this would make one hell of a last record.

Best Track
'U.F.O.'