‘People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis – you can’t trust people,’ said Superhans in the wonderful British comedy Peep Show.  But with the obscenely titled Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, the UK’s biggest musical franchise will be hoping to win the respect of Superhanses everywhere, as well as pleasing their enormous mainstream following.

The aim seems to have been to create a brooding, mysterious record.  Chris Martin’s spectacular toddler-strop during a recent Radio 4 interview may have been an attempt to establish this new image, but it’s hardly going to help matters when trying to maintain a decent reputation with both existing and potential listeners.  Layering your record with obscure cultural and religious references might be quirky, but everybody knows enough about Coldplay to realise this may be just a little bit contrived.  Still, Brian Eno sits behind the desk on production duty, and if there’s one person that can bridge the gap between the commercial and the experimental it’s Brian Eno.  His influence is apparent right away, with a sweeping, ambient instrumental introduction that goes on just a little too long for comfort.  But it doesn’t end here: his musical personality is in the arrangement, the effects and the structuring of practically the entire album, so much so that one begins to wonder whether he was effectively a fifth member of the band during the creation of Coldplay’s fourth LP. (more…)