The Track Guide To The Album ‘Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends.’
Coldplay have hailed their new album, Viva La Vida Or Death To All His Friends, as the start of a new era. The results of their musical journey are now ready for fans to hear, so here is a track-by-track guide to the album.
1. LIFE IN TECHNICOLOR
A two-and-a-half minute instrumental that starts off with atmospheric organs and gradually scales the band’s familiar epic heights as the rest of the band join in. The only one who doesn’t – apart from vague backing wailing – is Chris Martin.
It did have vocals until someone described it as “an obvious single” – at which point they were taken off. With the vocals, it would have been the closest thing on the album to their previous work – so the fact they were removed marks a pretty clear change of direction.
2. CEMETERIES OF LONDON
The new Coldplay make a melodramatic entrance – this is musically darker with a barrage of eerie noise, while still managing to remain very melodic. Martin has described it as their “ghost march” and he is clearly trying to tackle the big questions as he sings about a supernatural and religious quest.
This, along with a few other tracks, brings to mind the resonant 1980s stadium rock of bands like U2, Genesis, Simple Minds and Marillion.
Key lyric: “I see God come in my garden, but I don’t know what he said, for my heart it wasn’t open.”
This has a typical Chris Martin chorus that mixes insecurity with determination. He has summed it up, saying it was about “whatever slings and arrows come your way, you’ve just got to keep going. That’s my motto”.
Before, it might have been a simple, soaring Fix You-type epic, but their newfound wall of sound gives it a deeper and dirtier feel. That may be down to their new producer Brian Eno, who has worked with U2 and David Bowie and encouraged Coldplay to experiment.
Key lyric: “You might be a big fish in a little pond, doesn’t mean you’ve won.”
A slow, moody contemplation of death (“a lot of people around me have died recently”, Martin said) develops into one of their heaviest segments yet with crunching guitars inspired by Rammstein, before soon flourishing into a third song-within-a-song. And then finally going back to the start.
Their most ambitious song to date, and you can almost hear them struggling to escape the straitjacket they feel they has confined them. They succeed.
Key lyric: “Time is so short and I’m sure there must be something more.”
5. LOVERS IN JAPAN/ REIGN OF LOVE
A more upbeat, less dense number that sees Martin feeling less oppressed. That leads straight into their first “hidden track”, a more contemplative ballad.
They decided to squeeze in a number of extra songs to fit more in and make people listen to the whole album, they said.
Key lyric: “I have no doubt one day the sun will come out.”
6. YES/CHINESE SLEEP CHANT
He’s in defeatist mood again, singing in his lowest voice about loneliness and inner turmoil. They’re still trying to experiment, with Hispanic and Middle Eastern flourishes in the guitar playing.
Then there’s another hidden track, a free-spirited swirl of guitars and indistinguishable vocals that would not have been out of place in the early-1990s shoegazing scene.
Key lyric: “When it started we had high hopes, now my back’s on the line, my back’s on the ropes.”
7. VIVA LA VIDA
The title was named after a painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who Martin said he loved for her “incredible optimism”. Sweeping strings and church bells add pomp to Martin’s good mood, resulting in an uplifting aura that conjures open spaces and opportunity.
Even if the singer says it is about arriving at the Pearly gates. “It’s about… you’re not on the list,” Martin told Q magazine, adding that he was fascinated with the idea of life being judged once it’s over.
Key lyric: “For some reason I can’t explain, I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.”
8. VIOLET HILL
The first single, which was initially given away as a free download, is a stomping chant led by more heavy guitars. It travels through vaguely medieval imagery of carnivals, cathedrals, religion and war, culminating in a soaring chorus that will become one of their most anthemic live moments.
Key lyric: “If you love me, won’t you let me know.”
9. STRAWBERRY SWING
More gentle than much of the album, it is built around a repetitive African-inspired guitar as a blissed-out Martin sings the touching and slightly psychedelic love song about “such a perfect day”.
Key lyric: “The sky could be blue I don’t mind, without you it’s a waste of time.”
10. DEATH AND ALL HIS FRIENDS
Begins with Martin singing softly to a piano accompaniment before morphing into an exalted spirit-lifter that features a pounding piano, chiming guitars, yet more driving drums and a choir recorded in an art gallery in Barcelona.
Another hidden track, The Escapist, is given an avant-garde feel by apparently looping backwards samples, with Martin singing dreamily over the top, echoing the experimental direction Radiohead took on Kid A.
Key lyric: “I don’t want a cycle of recycled revenge, I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.”