By Ryan Leas
Not too long after the release of their last full-length, 2008's excellent “Viva la Vida or Death and All of his Friends,” Coldplayseemed to be in a prolific mood. About six months later, they released the supplementary EP “Prospekt's March,”which was of a slightly lesser quality but offered up a handful of new songs and a few alternate takes on some “Viva la Vida” tracks. After that, frontman Chris Martinannounced he was aiming to have another Coldplay album about before the end of 2009, to close out the decade with some new music. Add Martin's album-release plans to the ever-growing list of Coldplay's similarities to U2; just like Bono is notoriously unreliable when discussing prospective release dates, it seems Martin was a bit off the mark considering it is now mid-2011 and we still do not have that next full-length. What we do have is this -- the "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall"EP, a three-song teaser of what's to come later this year (supposedly in September). As it stands, it's not necessarily the most promising of previews, and makes it feel like the three-and-a-half-year wait may not have been worth it.
The EP’s title track is Coldplay by numbers. Though the song builds to a decent ending, its ridiculously saccharine title destabilizes the song's impact from the start. The improbable influence on “Every Teardrop” is also a mark against it. Like their use of Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love” to augment the 2005 “X&Y” track “Talk,” the band builds “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” upon a piano lick from Peter Allen’s 1976 hit “I Go to Rio.”Unlike the tasteful transposition of a “Computer Love” synth line into catchy guitar riff to supplement “Talk,” here the preponderance of Allen’s piano filtered through a rave-y filter just elicits head-scratching befuddlement, a sort of wonderment at whether the band could possibly be serious in hinging their lead single on such a cheesy lost song from the '70s. But this is Coldplay, and they are seldom tongue-in-cheek on record. “Every Teardrop” is full of the same overly ffusive but somehow empty sentiments that populate their worst pop moments, characteristics that are only compounded by the song’s dubious source material.
For the opening salvo of Coldplay 2011, it ultimately seems like the band seriously missed the mark, a feeling not even the song’s cathartic conclusion can dispel.
"Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” is followed by the slightly more interesting but still not amazing “Major Minus.”It’s a decent track, but something feels a bit off. The ubiquitous chant in the chorus teeters between catchy and irritating. but the song has a somewhat successful propulsion to it that makes it more enjoyable than “Every Teardrop.” If it's a lesser track on the upcoming album, it's fine. “Major Minus” is a relatively solid tune and nothing more really. But if this is being built up as one of the album's cornerstones, it isn't such a good sign.
Thankfully, the final song on the EP provides some glimmer of hope. “Moving to Mars,” the clear standout here, is Coldplay being beautiful without being cloying or artificial. At first elegantly restrained, then celestial, it’s reminiscent of “Parachutes,”the days before Coldplay started aping the worst aspects of U2 and were still trying to be Radiohead. The song is atmospheric throughout, and builds to a great climax that sounds like a poppier fusion of “Dark Side of the Moon” or “OK Computer,” an ethos largely achieved by Johnny Buckland’sfantastic -- and surprisingly non-Edge-like -- guitar lead. After the lackluster first two songs, it is nice to see that Coldplay can still produce some stunning drama.
Hopefully this tune is more indicative of what we might be able to expect from the forthcoming album. Unfortunately, the song “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” seems to hint at what the band is aiming to achieve. Claiming that the mood of the new album was influenced by 1980s graffiti, the bright synth of “Every Teardrop” points to a Coldplay that’s aiming for less gloom and melancholy -- i.e., not many more tracks like “Moving to Mars.” “Viva la Vida” was a strong album that sometimes suggested, sometimes proved that Coldplay could still be interesting. Despite the damage to that new faith that “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” may have produced, hopefully the new album is better than this scattershot progress report.