Thursday, July 03, 2008

Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends by Coldplay

Much has been made of Coldplay's attempt to branch out in new directions on their latest offering. Having long term U2 collaborator Brian Eno on board as certainly added sonic depth to Coldplay's sound. This is apparent from the rich soundscapes of the opening track, 'Life in Technicolor'. This song without words beings gently, switches tempo with some jaunty strings and builds up to a satisfying finale, with Chris Martin adding to the mix at the end with some "wo-o-o-oh's". This album is different from their previous offerings. If you don't believe me, just try playing Parachutes and Viva La Vida back to back. But this is definitely still Coldplay. They haven't gone all Kid A on us and wilfully subverted their own sound. But not even the wayward genius that is Radiohead could keep that up for more than two albums. Their latest offering, In Rainbows saw them return to order and melody over the dystopian glories of Kid A and Amnesiac.
Viva La Vida is full of surprises with hidden tracks and abrupt gear changes within songs. It is difficult to single out individual songs for special praise, but Viva La Vida and Violet Hill are just amazing. The latter is about a soldier saying goodbye to his sweetheart. He craves both reassurance, "if you love me, won't you let me know" and release, "if you love me won't you let me go". But to really appreciate this album you need to listen to it as a whole. The coda at the end of the final track brings us back to where we began. This adds to the record's underlying coherence.
The second track, Cemeteries of London introduces the two key themes of God and death that seem to pervade the album. In this track, God is a rather elusive being. In the dark streets of London people seek him in their own way. He is present everywhere,
God is in the houses and God is in my head… and all the cemeteries in London…
Yet Martin sings,
I see God come in my garden, but I don’t know what he said,
For my heart it wasn’t open… Not open…'
The idea that God is near, but somehow communication with him is blocked gives the album a sense of foreboding in the face of death. This is eloquently expressed in 42,
Those who are dead are not dead
They’re just living in my head
And since I fell for that spell
I am living there as well
Time is so short and I’m sure
There must be something more
In the final track Martin sings, "I don't want to follow death and all his friends". Worldly power does not give us the answer. The deposed monarch of the title track has lost everything and knows St. Peter won't call his name. With all this reflection on God, death and heaven, the band seem to be on a spiritual quest. There must be something more in the face of death and the fading glory of this world. But what is it? The yearning for meaning and hope in life and death is satisfied in knowing Jesus Christ. He has conquered death by his death and resurrection. Believing in him, we don't have to follow death and all his friends. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. In the Lord Jesus God draws near and speaks to us words of hope and grace. Is your heart open to him?

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