Like any prosperous band with a global audience entering its second decade, Coldplay seems to want to venture away from its enchanted cottage, albeit not too far. Their fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto (made-up words despite online MacGuffins as to meaning) makes good use of the tension between wanderlust and safety. “Hurts Like Heaven” drops the “soft” from Coldplay’s soft-rock wheelhouse, and kicks hard, a rush of blood through the keyboards with some of the roaming impulse of Arcade Fire’s anthems. “Charlie Brown” with lines such as “took a car downtown where the lost boys meet,” leaves little doubt that Chris Martin means it when he says he had been looking to Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town for inspiration. Martin also told NME that “our lyrics are a bit shit,” which is self-deprecating only by a hair: There are comparisons of rivers to raindrops, and the image of teardrop-to-waterfall appears in not one, but two songs.
Brian Eno is back; the co-producer of Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends, (the best-selling album of 2008), is credited with “Enoxification and additional composition.” Tracks such as “Major Minus” and “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” emphasize some of the past descriptions of Coldplay as U2-lite, though these tracks are less lite, more bite. “Paradise” — or, as Martin sings it, “para, para, para-dise” — is the kind of sincere Esperanto pop that will deservedly join “Clocks” and “Viva La Vida” on a future greatest hits collection.
“Enoxification” could also be shorthand for the handful of electronic interludes that suggest Mylo Xyloto could also serve double duty as a soundtrack album. That’s not the only thing: the, uh, soaring finale, “Up With the Birds,” feels designed to be played over the closing credits of a sentimental blockbuster animated comedy. Toy Story 4 producers, take note.