Single Review: Coldplay – ‘Charlie Brown’

“Quite possibly the best thing Coldplay have ever recorded”


Digital Release: January 23, 2012

Physical Release: March 18, 2012

It’s not hard to trace the progression of Coldplay as they venture into what is widely considered and equally as widely misinterpreted as “going commercial” for their fifth album, ‘Mylo Xyloto’. On an album themed to anti-establishmentarian revolutionaries with a fiercely anti-War message buried under your typical Coldplay fanfare, ‘Viva la Vida’s central track, the luxuriously colourful, wide-eyed spectacle of ‘Lovers In Japan’ was everything (in conjunction with ‘Strawberry Swing’) that brought the rest of the album’s dark tones to that pivotal, obligatory feeling of breaking through the clouds that personifies Coldplay’s latest offering, ‘Charlie Brown’. Further research would tell you that ‘Lovers In Japan’ was the last song recorded for the band’s fourth album, and simply listening to it would tell you that they had already started to move away from the lead-heavy melodies of songs like ‘Lost!’ and ‘Violet Hill’ and that it merges seamlessly into the vibrant incandescence of their fifth album. But it’s still a misinterpretation to brand Coldplay’s recent efforts as “going commercial” – they’ve always struck a chord as somewhere between high-brow commercialism (see: ‘Fix You’, ‘Speed of Sound’) and left field alternativeness (see: ‘God Put A Smile Upon Your Face’, ‘Strawberry Swing’) – commercial isn’t something new to Coldplay, it’s always been there. And, quite contrastingly to popular belief, this isn’t something that’s hindered them here.

In terms of sound, ‘Charlie Brown’ recalls the yangqin-lead ‘Life In Technicolor II’ in it’s surging, triumphant refrain; a wonderfully spacious sound that resonates with a sense of glorious accomplishment and manages to counteract the dulcet tones of Martin, whose frequently pathos-less whinings have dwindled the very soul of band’s work in the past. Thankfully though, Martin overcomes the urge to slow down the pace too much when the first verse arrives, and it’s also refreshing to hear lyrics that carry some weight as something relatable yet transcendent to something imaginatively fantastical at the same time.

It’s a crying shame that Coldplay’s best material isn’t the stuff that sells. ‘Paradise’ did well for the promotion of ‘Mylo Xyloto’ despite never actually raising any pulses until the dizzying, sky-scraping falsetto and football chants kicked in. Contrastingly, ‘Charlie Brown’ needs no warm-up period, and there’s no moment where the song’s momentum lapses, even in the quieter verses, thanks to Buckland’s effervescently chiming riff. A true testament to it’s sparkling resilience is that, even when otherwise hackneyed Coldplay lyrics like “All the boys, all the girls/All that matters in the world” roll around, the song still hurdles from strength to strength, swirling up a rousing finale to earn it’s title as quite possibly the best thing Coldplay have ever recorded.

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