The success of a new Coldplay album has always had more to do with you than with them. Chris Martin & Co. are unabashed titans of touchy-feely, and yet the sensitive Brits ultimately thrive not on their big bleeding hearts but yours. They provide the tingly music to your drama, and if you're having a doozy of a day — or you're a 16-year-old girl — the lads work that much better.
For me, I'll never appreciate Coldplay more than when I was in my early 30s, a screw-up on the cusp of fatherhood. Coldplay's 2002 masterwork A Rush of Blood to the Head, with its head-spinning takes on sense of place (Clocks) and alienation (The Scientist), spoke directly to me and my tortured solipsism.
Since then, I've lost a bit of interest in Coldplay. Mylo Xyloto, the band's fifth album, released on Monday, has been sold as their most uplifting LP yet, an idealistic response to a new world order that could use a few rainbows. It's an over-the-top creation, cheesily romantic in concept: Mylo and Xyloto are on-off lovers navigating 21st century malaise. Or something like that.
It's not that Coldplay skews young; it's that it skews soap opera. I want to dig Mylo Xyloto and its all-you-need-is-hope mantra. But all that peacenik waterfall hullabaloo eventually tends to blur for me these days. I need some edge to cut the fluff. Maybe that's not their fault. Maybe it's mine.
That said, there's no denying this new record is often a gorgeous thing. It's sprinkled with pixie dust by U2 pal Brian Eno, who's helped create a fever dream with a happy ending. Coldplay calls Eno's lush sonic veneer "Enoxification," and that's pretty accurate. It's downright narcotic, a paisley swirl of Jonny Buckland's chiming, shape-shifting guitars and Chris Martin's up-with-gush vocal, a slightly nasally delivery that sounds as if he just watched weepy home movies of his kids.
Just as prominent as Martin's vocal is his piano, which he pounds with Jerry Lee Lewis intensity even if the results are far less macho. Don't Let It Break Your Heart and Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall are crescendoing leviathans, maybe the band's most rollicking anthems ever, and that's saying a lot for a band also responsible for Yellow, Speed of Sound and the devastating holiday weeper Christmas Lights.
Totally content in their Coldplayness, the band does take a few chances: the circa-'80s Police pogo of Hurts Like Heaven, the Rihanna cameo on Princess of China, which sounds like a synth-blasted Prince outtake. Still, there's no mistaking who made this Kleenexian grandeur, with fluttery lil' love notes dominating the bear-hug vibe (Paradise: "She ran away in her sleep / And dreamed of para-para-paradise"; Up in Flames: "So it's over / This time you're flying on / This time, I know no song").
Depending on your feelings for Coldplay, it's exactly what you want — or want to avoid. I have no doubt that Mylo Xyloto will mend a few broken hearts out there. As for me, well, my heart is fine, but wow could I use a nap.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.