Gavin Haynes got exclusive access to the brand new Coldplay record. Here he delivers his verdict. Caution: may be a spoof. OK, it definitely is a spoof
1. ‘Mylo Xyloto’
The first sign that Coldplay are pushing their creativity to the limits arrives early, as the haunting refrain of a Tibetan singing bowl brings us into proceedings. Followed by wind-chimes. Followed by the distant thrum of a tabla. Followed by ambient samples of theremin, cut up at random. Followed by a children’s choir. Followed by bagpipes and maracas, before all this excess gradually recedes, segueing into a steady mid-paced 4/4 semi-acoustic rock song featuring guitar, bass, and drums, over which Chris Martin sings, plangently: “I was a fool/ To be unkind/ To be blind/ I just need/ To unwind.”
2. ‘Hurts Like Heaven’
Described by Martin as about ‘How when the pain of love is just too much, love itself is not enough’, ‘Hurts Like Heaven’ is new model Coldplay, featuring the full force of their rampant creativity. Inspired by producer Brian Eno’s famous ‘oblique strategy cards’, the band drew from a pack of words at random in the studio, replacing every fourth word in Martin’s lyrics at random, to come up with verses like: “And you made MUTANT way / Well there’s RAINCOAT thing I got STERILISATION say / There’s only EGGTIMER and only me / BINARY here and the SEPTECEMIA blue sea”.
Taking a sample from Phil Collins ‘Another Day In Paradise’, this is new model Coldplay at the peak of their new creative powers. Over a stuttering refrain of
“think twice, t-t-t-twice“, and an echoing hip-hop beat, Chris Martin follows up his ‘Viva La Vida’ experiments in imaginative identification with street sweepers by guessing what it’s like to be homeless. “Got no clothes. Got no shoes. But I guess I can dance away my blues. Got no food. Got no love. But all I need’s the stars above“. A truly harrowing piece of 21st Century storytelling.
4. ‘Charlie Brown’ & 5. ‘Us Against the World’
A suite of orchestral pop that goes from musings on Schultz’s cartoon character to a realistic documentation of the lives of Communist guerillas in the jungles of Borneo.
More forays into creativity: “In two thousand and nine. There ain’t no time. No time. In two thousand and nine“, Martin sings, over a juddering dubstep wobble of a bassline.
7. ‘Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall’
The one you’ll have heard, the album version features an extended intro, in which the entire song is played backwards at Bieber-800% pace, for a 35 minute total running time.
8. ‘Major Minus’
Chris Martin’s desire to write thematic songs with big extended metaphors at their heart along the lines of ‘The Scientist’ reaches an apex with this cheery little ditty about elementary maths: “I multiply the you in I/So many times/We’re divided, but we are one/Major Minus, won’t you solve my heart’s true sum”, he sings, again plangently.
A largely instrumental track featuring a simple collection of lute, Jew’s harp, mandolin, vibraphone, and vuvuzela, it also features samples taken from Martin’s favourite Paolo Coelho books.
10. ‘Princess of China’ Feat. Rihanna
Akin to Alex Kapranos’ experiments with Xenomania, Chris Martin embraces the world of pure pop, and it, in the form of Rihanna, embraces him back. A co-write between Martin and Dr Luke finds him trading verses with singing dollar sign Rihanna thusly:
Martin: “Am I lost in a world I cannot know? Oh I’ve got nowhere to go.”
Rihanna: “Have you got a big one? Could, could you put it up one?”
Martin: “Am I sailing a crystal sea? Is this where I want to be?”
Rihanna: “Get down get down on me. I’ll get down, down on my knees.”
Martin: “In my dreams I found a sign. A sign of how to walk this line.”
Rihanna: “Turn me round and give me some. Don’t let up until ya come.”
Both: “Princess Of China, I’m right behind ya.”
11. ‘Up in Flames’
Dedicated to London’s rioters, this tells the story of a newsagents in Hackney which was burnt out, and records the owner going in to inspect the husk of his burnt-out shop. Once inside, he finds a single white dove nesting in the top shelf, where he used to keep his smutty magazines. It is a plea for hope, sanity in an age of madness, and devotion in an age of fickleness. “You’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself,” he calls, hauntingly. “Search for the hero inside/ A single new white dove/ Nesting in the place of lesbian love.”
12. ‘A Hopeful Transmission’
The sound of a Chris Martin’s firstborn child’s pre-natal heartbeat provides the kickdrum for this largely ambient track, somewhere between Lennon’s ‘#9 Dream’ and producer Brian Eno’s own ambient wanderings. Over the end, a fragment of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech can be heard, as though on a crackly wireless.
13. ‘Don’t Let It Break Your Heart’
A stirringly emotive piano-led symphonic ballad, to recreate the atmosphere it would ultimately be received in, the band filled the studio with big-screen televisions to broadcast non-stop footage of sports teams winning trophies.
14. ‘Up With the Birds’
An all-singing, all-dancing finale to their tour de force, ‘Up With The Birds’ finds Martin and co in full expansive mode, as a Tibetan singing bowl, tabla, wind chimes, theremin, children’s choir, bagpipes and maracas swell to an exultant climax, before giving way to steady 4/4 semi-acoustic rock song featuring guitar, bass, and drums, over which Chris Martin sings falsetto: “Up with the birds/ That’s where I want to be/ Up in the sky/ Soaring so high/ Over a blue sea.” Truly profound.