Coldplay

Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (Capitol)

Phases & Stages

Coldplay

Viva la Vida (Capitol)

Sure, Chris Martin still has a knack for melodrama, but damned if producer Brian Eno isn't the man who saved Coldplay. To the London quartet's simple melodies, heart-wrenching lyricism, and what had become formulaic songwriting, Eno has added texture, complexity, and maturity. From the Celtic swatches of "Cemeteries of London" to the U2 throes of "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love," Coldplay ups the ante, integrating not-quite-worldly rhythms, but the closest the Biggest Non-Irish Rock Band could ever come by. Gone is the sentimental, yellow-tinged sap, replaced by strings ("Viva la Vida") and percussion ("Lost!"). While the band's fourth LP begins light and pretty, its power breaks late-album with Old West tangent "Violet Hill," and when "Death and All His Friends" bursts free in Martin's piano, Frida Kahlo actually smiles. It isn't perfect, but Viva la Vida re-establishes Coldplay's relevance in this era where every new indie rock band really wants to be Coldplay.

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