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9 out of 10
More than a vehicle for providing their first UK number one single, Viva La Vida marks a new era in the reinvention of one of the best loved British bands of recent times. It is surely an odd experience - to be thrust from student life to megastardom in what feels like a blink of an eye, but there must be a point at which Mr Chris Martin looks across the table at his Hollywood wife, considers his impending stadium tour, eyes the platinum discs that hang from the wall and chuckles to himself. "Yes Mr Martin", you can almost hear him say, "You are a king".
And indeed he should. Coldplay's fourth offering sees the band head in a new direction and the result is a record where groovesome programmed beats jostle with the grand swells of church organs, where the space between verse and chorus is filled with deliciously propulsive stabs of North African-styled strings and tables (According to the press release), where breezy Flamenco handclaps drive a tale of gloom and despair, or where pounding rhythms meld with weeping strings for an ode to lost glories. This is still Coldplay. But it is different.
Viva La Vida takes you on a journey. This isn't a quick listen. This isn't even really radio stock-rock anymore. This is serious music for grown-ups and every time you hit play, you notice something new. "We've definitely stretched ourselves", says guitarist Jonny Buckland, quoting the album's influences to be as diverse as Rammstein and Tinariwen, Marvin Gaye and Radiohead, Jay-Z and Gerschwin.
The album is produced, in part, by Brian Eno, and as a result has a tendency to sound suspiciously similar to U2's The Joshua Tree, but that in itself is no bad thing and hasn't done Bono any harm over the last 20 years though I can't help but sing "I want to run, I want to hide. I want to break down the walls that hold me inside." over the introduction to one particular tune.
Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends takes its title from the extremes of emotions that fuel it. It is an album characterised by loss and uncertainty, good times and bad times, happiness and regrets, and according to Martin, the album is built on love, joy and excitement.
This is a worthy record and if justice serves, it should be remembered as something more than "the fourth album" - it is 42 minutes of hope and enjoyment with ten great songs that will each be somebody's favourite. Go and buy it. Listen for yourself.
1. Death And All His Friends
2. Strawberry Swing
3. Violet Hill
4. Viva La Vida
6. Lovers In Japan / Reign Of Love
9. Cemeteries Of London
10. Life In Technicolor