**** (out of four)

Good bands regularly reinvent themselves, and Coldplay has done it with rip-roaring success on their latest album.
The cryptically named “Mylo Xyloto” is such a blast that it nearly qualifies as a controlled substance; once you start listening, you’ll find it tough to stop.

It soars, it sings, it throbs, it thrums, it hums, it chimes, it sparkles, it boils, it bounces and burns -- but mostly, it comes roaring through your headphones in an avalanche of tuneful and densely layered pop; “Mylo Xyloto” just might become this popular band’s most popular recording.

The album has a more unified feel and a louder, brasher, more radio-friendly sound than previous Coldplay works such as “Viva la Vida” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head”; the stripped-down, soulful moments that marked the group’s early work are largely supplanted by a lavish mass of electronic noise, which has already proved off-putting to some long-time fans.

No doubt this lavish synthetic sound-bed is due in part to veteran studio wizard Brian Eno, who has worked with Roxy Music, John Cage, Robert Fripp, David Bowie, Grace Jones and Sinead O’Connor -- and who helped engineer such legendary albums as “The Lamb Lies Down in Broadway” (Genesis), “Remain in Light” (Talking Heads) and “The Joshua Tree” (U2).

What’s remarkable here is the simplicity of the compositions -- yet they’re fleshed out with a lush and seething sea of textures that makes “Mylo” feel like a torrent of bright, cool water rushing over and through your body.

What’s equally remarkable is the way this record seems to cross all age barriers, popular with trendy teens and also with aging Boomers weaned on Woodstock and progressive rock.

The album’s Wikipedia entry calls it a concept album about two lovers in an oppressive dystopia; I could find no support for this claim elsewhere, but it certainly clarifies the otherwise obscure lyrics.

The record’s only drawback is that its strongest songs come early -- so the second half feels weak in comparison; I could do without “Up in Flames,” and the final cut is anticlimactic.

“Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” was released last summer as the album’s first single -- but it’s easily surpassed by the sensational “Paradise” and the sizzling “Major Minus."

A few days ago, someone asked me to name my favorite song.  I could only answer that this changed about every 10 days, and that the slot was currently filled by Coldplay’s “Us Against the World,” a spell-binding cross between U2 and Johnny Cash.

Every now and then, an album comes along that magically combines cutting-edge coolness with irresistible pop appeal -- albums like Peter Gabriel’s “So,” REM’s “Out of Time,” Steely Dan’s “Aja” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.”

Too early to say if “Mylo” is a milestone of that sort -- but it’s pretty darn close.

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