I wouldn’t really call Coldplay’s 2008 Viva La Vida a concept album in the strictest sense of the word. Not concept like Talking Heads or Frank Zappa concept. They’re not that type of band. But what I mean by concept is that Coldplay created an album that conceptualizes them as a band. Viva La Vida is Coldplay. It defines Coldplay as a creative entity, a stand-alone, a force in music and the creation of it.
Discrepancies with Joe Satriani aside, this album puts the group into the affectors of music and not just the affectees. What I mean is that Viva La Vida is the album that will inspire musicians to create. It is free from influence. It is typically epic which has been a staple of the Coldplay diet since A Rush of Blood to the Head, but it provides twists and turns and while at a mere 46 minutes, packs 10 songs with mature thoughts, lyrics, hooks, composition, arrangements and heart to make you wish it were just 10 – 15 minutes longer. The tracks themselves are concepts in miniature and tend to lean towards being in and of themselves ideas that could be albums all their own. From the ominous Cemeteries of London questioning the ability of the ears to hear a God walking in the back yard or the conclusive Death And All His Friends with it’s soaring bridge and ending that wraps up where the album started off, every song could contain 9 – 10 other songs like it on 9 – 10 other albums. This disc is that involved and involving from the first note. The album could have been 14 songs if you listen to it carefully. A number of songs contain songs within themselves, which again proves that the concept behind this album is that Coldplay is not going anywhere anytime soon and has been maturing and marinating for the last 9 years that they’ve been making albums.In the maturing process, something of note has taken place with Viva La Vida: While political sidings and alliances still linger within the tone and lyrics of some of the songs, something much more personal has emerged. Rather than an attempt to align itself with a particular set of ideals or beliefs, Coldplay has sought to infer a sense of moral conviction about life and the quality of it.
There’s a seeking and searching spirit behind many of these songs. Reveling in love, dancing through the streets as the sun rises, common hearts and minds, and a movement away from what death and his followers have offered in the past. This album reveals itself as a concept album in that Chris Martin and crew have a new urgency to communicate with the world; Life is Beautiful and should be absorbed through every pore, but change must happen in our hearts in order for this to happen. Though my favorite track is Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love something resonates within me in the chorus of the finale Death And All His Friends – ‘I don’t want to battle from begnning to end / I don’t want to cycle or re-cycle revenge / I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends‘. And that’s the height to which Viva La Vida takes its listeners – Personal responsibility to a new quality of life amongst the ugliness and hatred that perpetrates us as people. I like that. X & Y carried with it hints of New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen, Rush moved through the darker realms of life and love, Parachutes brought the strains of U2, and Travis from Johnny Buckland’s guitars and relied on Martin’s falsetto to carry much of the album into the hearts of adoring fans. But Viva La Vida stands alone, on its own as a coming of age for a group that is destined to keep the edges of music sharp. Very sharp indeed.