Coldplay’s new CD is carefully crafted, immaculately conceived with Brian Eno and full of gently uplifting rockers. Such qualities have helped Chris Martin’s men to seven Grammy awards and 50 million record sales.
“Mylo Xyloto,” out today, is also about as bland as beige curtains and as revolutionary as a gray suit. It won’t be the favored soundtrack of many protesters in New York or London.
Coldplay makes more of the right moves this time, with stadium-sized statements. “Paradise” has a swelling chorus as well as a funny video, which has the U.K. band dressed as elephants -- a likely signal they are prepared to lighten up.
The single “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” as previewed at the Glastonbury summer festival, is cute; “Princess of China” features vocals by Rihanna. Fans will soon know these word for word and sing along at future Glastos.
There are three producers, with the excellent Eno credited for “Enoxification and additional composition.” Coldplay peppers the album with a strange concept about a love affair between characters called Mylo and Xyloto in a future world. It’s almost inspired, if still uninspiring. If they don’t save the world, at least they will save Parlophone. Again.
The recording is easy on the ear. There’s not much to dislike, and that’s the point. The best rock is edgy and risky, not dull and sounding like a poor copy of U2. That’s surely not what Coldplay intended. Sorry guys. It’s still rock music for people who don’t like rock. Rating: ***.
Noel Gallagher keeps to his trademark scowl on his “High Flying Birds” album. The cover was photographed at a Beverly Hills gas station, though the lights make it look like he’s under the nose of Concorde, his high-flying bird.
Perhaps unsmiley Noel should cheer up because this is the best thing made by the Oasis family in a long time. It’s considerably better than his brother Liam’s act Beady Eye.
There’s plenty of Oasis-like moments, some with twists such as added New Orleans horns and the Crouch End Festival Chorus, known for work with Ray Davies and others.
Yet none of the songs are up there with “Live Forever,” and the lyrics get silly on “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks.” Rating: ***½.
If all else fails, remix.
Peter Gabriel is going down the Sting route by adding strings on “New Blood.” Gabriel’s previous collection “Scratch My Back” did much the same with other artists’ songs. Now he’s reinterpreting his own catalog, never improving on the originals though occasionally, as with the orchestral “Red Rain,” creating something fresh and interesting. Rating: ***.
Radiohead has turned over “The King of Limbs” to remixers such as Modeselektor. The result is a two-CD recycle bin of spotty experiments called “TKOL RMX 1234567.” Rating: **.
To hear how remixing should be done, try Depeche Mode’s latest “Remixes 2: 81-11,” with revelatory versions of “Personal Jesus” and “In Chains.” Rating: ****.
Tom Waits, the old rascal, beats all the above. “Bad as Me” is his first studio album of all-new material since 2004, though the intervening years gave us his brilliant “Orphans” set and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Waits’s hickory-smoked voice sounds more bourbon-mashed than ever. That’s a compliment. He gargles his way though “Satisfied,” with backing guitar from Keith Richards, and runs through a gamut of styles: grunge, blues, gospel, with a sentimental return to the old drunken military-band sound that graced “Rain Dogs.” Rating: *****.
What the Stars Mean: ***** Exceptional **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
Coldplay is on Parlophone, Gabriel on Real World, Radiohead on XL, Depeche Mode on Reprise and Waits on Epitaph, available now. Gallagher is on Island/Mercury out in the U.S. on Nov. 8 and in the U.K. now. Most are available priced about $9, with a deluxe edition from $16. Download prices vary across services.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)