Sound — 10
The opening Life In Technicolor introduces their subtler approach. It strains to be a Coldplay Epic TM, but teasingly stays an instrumental. Cemeteries Of London follows. Folkier and more downbeat than usual, it's pretty but one of the album's more predictable moments. It truly explodes with Lost!, as Will Champion's inventive percussion solidifies into a nagging tribal groove behind Chris Martin's huggable vocals. Next is 42, the undoubted standout and the best argument to win back early fans who went off Coldplay once the stadiums came calling. Starting out like Imagine, it suddenly switches into a titanic shoegaze drone, only to turn into a fabulous upbeat terrace anthem before heading back to its piano origins. All in four minutes. Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant's hypnotic bass is similarly unexpected, Martin again singing with unusual menace. Lovers In Japan's euphoric keyboards, reminiscent of The Beloved, make it the first Coldplay floorfiller. It turns into Reign Of Love, the album's weakest ballad-by-numbers along with Violet Hill, which was a downright peculiar choice of first single. The title track rescues matters again, furthering Lost! 's African percussion. It's both too subtle to be a cloying appropriation of Tinariwen rhythm, and too joyous to care what anyone thinks. Strawberry Swing is better still, keeping Lovers In Japan's euphoria for a blissed-out trance. Death And All His Friends' lovely guitars soon fades into hidden song The Escapist, which sees Martin chanting over producer Brian Eno's most obvious input, a circular wall of ambience.
Lyrics — 8
Let's be clear: this isn't a Year Zero "everything you know is wrong" album. As Chris Martin says, they're too much in love with communal anthems to adopt the standard "if anyone else likes it, it's a bonus" attitude. It an album with words that sound great and interesting but don't make a lot of sense. There are moments of brilliance, and moments of madness.
Overall Impression — 9
If X&Y can be seen as ending a trilogy, how much of Coldplay's new influences can be detected this time round? Tinariwen, Rammstein, MBV and Gershwin have been mentioned. There's no sign of Rammstein, but the others are there. Anyone who hates Coldplay won't be swayed, and the lyrics can be a bit trite at times. But it's a reminder that, sometimes, big is best.