Coldplay fans rejoice: Viva La Vida has arrived! This album, the band's fourth, is a big deal as Coldplay strives for that sweet spot between critical success and broad appeal. This time out, Chris Martin and Co. have brought in famed U2 producer Brian Eno to help take their sound in new and interesting directions.
Viva La Vida is indeed experimental but not in a way that will alienate fans. Many critics had a viscerally angry reaction to 2005's X&Y (the New York Times declared Coldplay "the most insufferable band of the decade" after that effort – ouch, right?), but Viva La Vida is just the kind of album you want a band of this stature to release mid-career.
Martin and his mates retain all the epic instrumentals that give Coldplay its signature amphitheater rock sound but apply an obvious amount of self-restraint to the album, making it fun without putting you to sleep. The band refrains from repeating choruses over and over again (ahem, "Fix You") and steers clear of the self-pitying lyrics of albums past, instead focusing on themes around war, religion, and the nature of love.
Viva La Vida is something borrowed and something new for Coldplay, and I'm pleasantly surprised and happy with the result. After giving the entire album a whirl, I feel like I’ve listened to a soundtrack of a sweeping epic that spans wars, generations, and the globe.