2 stars (out of 4)
In a recent interview,
Eno, who also worked with the British quartet on its 2008 album, "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends," is credited with "enoxification" and, more tangibly, with cowriting every song on "Mylo Xyloto." His presence can be felt in the details, the way songs evoke paintings with their depth of field and subtle blends of color.
But Coldplay has a formula, and formula prevails on "Mylo Xyloto" despite Eno's presence. It will ensure a certain number of hits and considerable commercial radio airplay, but those who thought of a Coldplay-Eno collaboration as a ticket to a reinvention – as U2 accomplished with "Achtung Baby" in 1991 or Talking Heads with "Remain in Light" in 1980 under Eno's guidance – will be disappointed.
Innovation really isn't the point with Coldplay – at least not anymore. In what has otherwise been a fairly desultory era for mainstream rock, the foursome has sold 40 million albums by thinking big. Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion come across as rock stars of the most modest, self-deprecating sort, and they aspire to write universal, feel-good songs: from their breakthrough "Yellow" in 2000 through "Clocks," "Fix You" and "Viva La Vida," they've reliably dished out durable radio singles.
Though the band has tinkered with new sounds (the art-rock moves of "X&Y" in 2005 and the world-music accents in "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends"), "Mylo Xyloto" is essentially a blueprint for concert sing-alongs – rock's sensitive-guy answer to the Black Eyed Peas' party-till-you-pass-out celebration.
The new album takes its cues from the ‘70s
The clumsy narrative is supported by two kinds of songs – sparse ballads and enormo-anthems, linked by three short instrumentals that give the album a sense of cohesion, one track bleeding into the next (a classic Eno-esque touch). After a brief intro, the band throws three big punches designed to shake the walls in “
Coldplay strategically deploys a handful of ballads for contrast: “Us Against the World,” “U.F.O.,” “Up in Flames.” Martin milks these smaller, more intimate moments, the world-weary troubadour imploring a lover, God or both to “lift up this blindfold (and) let me see again.” The one detour is an awkward, seemingly pasted-together collaboration with hooks-specialist
As for the desperate lovers Mylo and Xyloto, it all works out in the end -- and how could it not in a Chris Martin story? A last-minute surprise would've been completely out of character for an album that plays it this safe.