Coldplay Gets… Experimental?


Coldplay\'s New Record

“…the experimentation makes this their most musically interesting album to date.”- Rolling Stone


“…a brilliant collection of songs designed to push [their] epic envelope”- NME


“This consistently thrilling effort fills a much larger sonic canvas with much larger ideas.”- Spin

Are these reviews talking about “A Taste of DNA”, the 1981 EP featuring Tim Wright’s hypnotic bass and Ikue Mori’s semi-rhythmic drums juxtaposed against Arto Lindsay’s skronk guitar and manic vocals?  Or is it Public Image Ltd.’s “Metal Box/Second Edition”, featuring John Lydon tearing himself apart over Jah Wobble’s crushing dub basslines and Keith Levene’s scraping metal guitar?  Maybe it’s for Whitehouse’s “Birthdeath Experience” with atonal, nonmusical synthesizers providing a background for William Bennett’s processed wailing.  These records are decidedly experimental; they demolish song structure (DNA and Whitehouse), bastardize “normal” instruments (DNA), and mix musical genres, such as disco, dub, krautrock, etc (Public Image Ltd.). They use these techniques to break into a new musical space, one that is completely alien and has no direct precedents, but is still compelling to listen to despite the lack of hooks or anything resembling pop.

Actually, these reviews are for the pedestrian “art” “rock” of Coldplay; specifically for their new Brian Eno-produced album, “Viva La Vida, Or Chris Martin and All His Money”.  This is not an experimental album; it is pop music.  The first hint that this record is not experimental comes from the Apple commercial with Coldplay; generally, something pushing the boundaries of music cannot be used to sell product (Try to imagine “Hamburger Lady” by Throbbing Gristle in a McDonald’s commercial ). Furthermore, the actual song “Viva La Vida” uses strings in a traditional manner and has a traditional melody (rumored to be ripped off from another song).  After the first verse, there is a brief moment of strange sound effects and semi-dissonance.  This could be experimental if it lasted for more than five seconds.

I suspect that this album is billed as experimental because it is supposedly their most intelligent and sophisticated album.  Any semblance of intelligence is on the cover art (Any band produced by  Eno used to be considered smart, such as Talking Heads.  That changed with U2).  See the Delacroix painting upon which the name of a Frida Kahlo painting has been scrawled? Those two references are about as smart as Viva La Vida gets.  The lyrics include lines such as “When the future’s architectured/By a carnival of idiots on show/You’d better lie low”.  Actually, this line is one of the few times Coldplay use a word with more than three syllables.  And guess what? “Architecture” is a verb, not a noun.  

Overall, there’s no doubt that Eno is a genius producer, but all the innovative techniques really only used to service pop, instead of breaking new ground. Eno does introduce new elements, but they’re just too subtle; they  may add to the “texture” and “nuance”, but it doesn’t really doesn’t push the music into a new space.  It’s just the same tired Radiohead knockoff.


2 Responses to “Coldplay Gets… Experimental?”

  1. Mark Richardson Says:

    You fail to mention how great and popular this album is.

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