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Over the weekend, popular soft-rock combo Coldplay announced the details of their long-awaited fourth album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, due on June 17. As we were leaving the office on Friday, we were clubbed over the head, drugged, and transported via helicopter to the top-secret island (Britain) on which Chris Martin & Co. have been plotting their imminent comeback. When we regained consciousness, we found ourselves tied to a chair in a Batcave-esque underground recording studio where a Coldplay publicist, in between bouts of maniacal laughter, offered to let Vulture be the first blog in the entire blogosphere to hear a finished copy of the new record. What follows is our exclusive track-by-track preview.
1. “Life in Technicolor”
Like much of Coldplay’s best work, “Life in Technicolor” examines the nature of romantic love through a rudimentary understanding of things taught in high-school science class. Backed by soaring strings, horns, a harp, and several dozen gospel choirs, Chris Martin compares the song’s female subject to the colors of the visible spectrum. The track, whose melody borrows liberally from John Williams’s “Theme From Star Wars,” ends abruptly when Martin fails to recall the difference between wavelength and frequency.
2. “Cemeteries of London”
Following his recent collaborations with Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Swizz Beatz, Martin indulges his love for hip-hop on this bombastic club banger. Over blaring sirens and Mannie Fresh synthesizers, he raps, “The cemeteries of London, they sure ain’t much fun / And if you slag off Coldplay, we’ll put you in one.” The album’s weakest moment.
This aching piano ballad chronicles the tumultuous relationship between a pair of lovers (Martin and Paltrow?) as they attempt to catch up with Lost’s fourth season by watching DVDs of the first three in marathon sessions. The chorus includes the refrain: “Who are the Others and why can’t they breed? / And what will become of Kate, Locke, and Sayid?” Gorgeous.
Some have speculated that the title of this upbeat track is an allusion to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Martin is an admitted fan of the book. Actually, it’s a tribute to the 42 people who currently hold the Guinness World Record for the largest number of persons to fit in a car at once (the Moss Bay Majorettes from Jacksonville, Florida, who crammed into a Jaguar XJ6 in August of 1984). All silliness is undercut by the song’s minor key and 26-minute orchestral coda. A highlight.
5. “Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love”
A slow R&B jam, sung in Martin’s sexy, rarely used baritone, about the various ways in which he’d romance you in Japan, including karaoke, a meal at a nice sushi restaurant, and front-row tickets to a championship sumo-wrestling match. By the second verse, it becomes obvious that he’s never actually been to Japan. The album’s weakest moment.
This weepy acoustic-guitar ballad is named for the way Martin hopes the band’s fans in Prescott, Wisconsin, will vote on an upcoming increase for the city’s school budget. (After his campaigning for John Kerry in 2004 failed to elect the senator, he’s pledged to become better involved in local politics where he feels he can make more of a difference.)
7. “Viva la Vida”
Though this song is named after a painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, it’s actually just “Yellow” sung in Spanish. The album’s weakest moment.
8. “Violet Hill”
This hard-rocking track is about the Violet Hill Bed and Breakfast in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Martin saw it online once and has just always really wanted to go there.
9. “Strawberry Swing”
According to Rolling Stone: “This is one of several potential album cuts with Afro-pop and high-life influences. Here, distortion-free finger-picked guitars which sound straight out of Mali mix with a heavy bassline and psychedelic synths. ‘My Mum comes from Zimbabwe, so I spent a lot of time there,’ says Martin.” (This was actually funnier than anything we could come up with.)
10. “Death and All His Friends”
Despite its depressing-sounding title, this is actually a sweet piano ballad in which Martin pledges to love a woman until “death and all his friends” (which presumably include old age, various cancers, and an appreciation for the History Channel) turn up. It was around this point that we fell asleep.