On Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay's fourth album, producer Brian Eno attempts to use the same formula that worked for U2 by freshening up Coldplay's reliable brand of emotive lyricism and comforting melodies with his signature ambient infusions. The result, though, is that Eno simply makes Coldplay sound like U2: The guitars get a disturbingly Edge-like jangle, particularly on "Lovers In Japan/Reign of Love." That's still the least of Viva's problems, as it's also highly dependent on overwrought ideas. The number of religious and war references (particularly on the title track) quickly becomes overbearing, but it's the orchestration that's especially excessive. "Lost!" uses booming church organs to bolster its religious tone, while "Yes" is smothered in violins. And as Coldplay aims for worldwide domination, its instrumental palate likewise spans the globe. The band filters South American and North African sounds into "Strawberry Swing" and works the Persian santur overtime on incongruous opener "Life In Technicolor." Coldplay aims to dazzle with these distracting new elements, but at its core, Vida lacks simple, hook-driven pop songs. Coldplay's first two albums had this basic requirement in spades, while the group's last two offerings — particularly this one — don't.
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