Coldplay shifts its sound in its latest ‘Mylo Xyloto’

Published 11:19 am Friday, November 4, 2011

Go big or go home.

That’s the motto Coldplay took to heart on their fifth studio album “Mylo Xyloto.”

The album marks the band’s jagged shift to pure pop, which is best epitomized by “Princess of China,” a song that features Rhianna on backing vocals and space-fueled synthesizers.

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On “Mylo Xyloto,” Coldplay’s well-timed guitars and piano tracks take a back seat to the electronic instruments.

In scale, the sound is reminiscent of U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” with grand pop ballads. Think “Beautiful Day,” but with more pop than rock. In fact, rock ‘n’ roll is mostly benched in favor of dance beats.

When the guitars do show up, guitarist Jonny Buckland is often in the background with shimmering tones similar to U2’s The Edge.

The big sound, the reverb on vocals, the harmonies of voices on choruses and the beat-infused pop makes for a sound made to be played in arena’s to sold out crowds.

Take “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” with it’s driving, methodical drums. It’s a song to stand up and dance to — or at least strain the bass on a few car stereos.

With such a large sound, “Mylo Xyloto” should be listened to on full volume, but that means it lacks something with just headphones and an mp3 player.

The album puts its dancing shoes forward. singer Chris Martin’s vocals are more perceptible on “Paradise,” but robust electronics lead the sound.

“Major Minus” features a cooing chorus almost in the style of TV On the Radio, the British four-piece can’t quite capture the intensity of the Brooklyn-based TV On the Radio.

In a move toward robust sounds, the band often abandons the subtleties. Singer Chris Martin’s vocals are hardly perceptible amidst the chorus of voices on “Hurts Like Heaven.”

“Mylo Xyloto” is at its best when the band pulls back the pop. “Us Against The World” starts as one of the most stripped down songs on the album of arena-anthems, but it slowly builds with repetitive guitars and Martin singing “slow it down” as the song spins toward an outburst that quickly subsides.

The slower tempo and simpler instrumentation and focus on lyrics are a welcome break from the barrage of big sounds. It’s a track that adds a touch of variety.

On parts of the album, Coldplay sounds like an upstart indie band. The album is more a complete transformation than a new direction.

Bob Dylan is perhaps the best example of an artist who was able to keep his tone and personality, while pursing a new genre. It may have been new, but it was always Dylan.

On “Mylo Xyloto,” Coldplay waffles between maintaining their tone and sounding like an entirely new group.