Coldplay's latest delivers chills

Vivid imagery tells stark tales

ROCK

Coldplay 'gets' religion

"Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends"

Coldplay. Capitol. 10 tracks (plus two hidden tracks).

Grade: A-

Part of Coldplay's new album title ("Viva La Vida") is derived from a painting by 20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and the disc itself offers plenty of religious imagery, rich emotions and contemplative writing.

Frontman Chris Martin, along with bassist Guy Berryman, guitarist Jonny Buckland and drummer Will Champion take some of the formulas that have helped them sell in excess of 30 million albums, bend them, twist them and toughen them up a bit. They have most definitely not lost their melodic gifts however, as can be clearly heard on songs such as the gorgeous and at times ghostly "Viva La Vida" or in the church-organ sounds of "Lost!"

For this dynamic, invigorating recording produced by Brian Eno, Markus Dravs and Rik Simpson, Coldplay deliberately sought to be terse, and this one checks in at approximately 45 minutes. Smart thinking for there's far too much filler on most discs these days.

Starting with the brief, acoustic-tiered instrumental "Life in Technicolor," they quickly wheel into the Spanish flamenco-flavored "Cemeteries of London."

"God is in the houses," Martin sings in the latter. "And God is in my head/And all the cemeteries of London/I see God come in my garden/But I don't know what he said/For my heart it wasn't open."

It's not the first time the band ponders thoughts of death here, with the most notable references occurring during the beautiful, piano-based, steady building song of hope "42," which features the lyrics:

"Those who are dead are not dead/They're just living in my head/And since I fell for that spell/I am living there as well/Time is so short/And I'm sure/There must be something more."

The song blends into rocket blasts worth of surging guitars, and while the lyrics may be designed to provoke, the music throughout the album is artfully structured. "Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love" is an upbeat thriller featuring some honky-tonk piano sounds, while "Violet Hill" typifies Coldplay's taste for rich dynamics that dominate the disc. By the time things wind down with "Death and All His Friends," the whole band join together in singing, raging against the night. And then they ease into the swirling hidden track "The Escapist," which closes with the simple words: "And in the end we lie awake and we dream of making our escape."

Some bands still feel that music can convey something meaningful within the exhilaration of the sound. And if more bands were crafting works as strong as "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" the album format would be as vibrant as it was decades ago.

— Kevin O'Hare, Newhouse News Service

ALSO OUT

• She has a slew of stand-up specials and a reality series to her name, but "For Your Consideration" is Kathy Griffin's first comedy album.

• Metal masters Judas Priest brings back the sprawling two-disc concept album with "Nostradamus."

• After a couple of albums with husband Kenny Lattimore, R&B singer Chanté Moore is back with a George Duke-produced solo album, "Love the Woman."

• Already riding high on the pop charts with single "I Kissed a Girl," Katy Perry releases her debut album, "One of the Boys."

• Atlanta hip-hop/rock hybrid Rehab returns with "Sittin' at a Bar."

• Omaha, Neb.-based Tilly and the Wall includes a couple of former Atlantans and a tap dancer. The group's new album is called "O."

• T-Pain, Ray J and Trey Songs are among the guest on Florida rapper 2 Pistols' "Death Before Dishonor."

• Southern pop-rock band Sister Hazel documents an unplugged performance on "Before the Amplifiers: Live Acoustic."

Dan Tyminski is best known as part of Alison Krauss' Union Station and as the singing voice of George Clooney in "O Brother Where Art Thou." His new solo album is called "Wheels."

• Southern California's the Offspring returns with album No. 8, "Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace."

• The son of British folk-rock royalty Richard and Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson is back with his fourth full-length album, "A Piece of What You Need."

COMING NEXT TUESDAY

• New albums from Gerald Albright, Ry Cooder, Anthony David, Bobby Digital (aka RZA), Luke Doucet and the White Falcon, Dwele, Alejandro Escovedo, Hercules and Love Affair, Incognito, Less Than Jake, Edwin McCain, G. Love and Special Sauce, Mötley Crüe, Reckless Kelly, Shinedown and Sigur Rós.

— Shane Harrison

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