On Viva, Martin is interested in a world larger than his own. Even more remarkable is how he manages to write about the world without his extracurricular activist efforts becoming the central focus. Maybe the master, Mr. Bono, could learn a thing or two from his student. Incidentally, I'm not the first person to drop the word "student" on Coldplay. Liam Gallagher beat me to the punch on that one in a hilarious tirade a few years back. Sorry, I know I keep jumping around. We're going to get back to Coldplay and Viva.
Maybe Martin is a happier, more stable person. Maybe he knows he'll get crucified if he tries writing a self-denigrating, moping record about not getting the girl when he's married to Gwyneth Paltrow and has two beautiful, healthy children. Maybe he just started reading better books.
The songs on Viva rely more on texture than traditional structure and favor ambiance over melody. While the whole thing is over in 47 minutes, many of the songs such seem to have sequels, segues, and multiple parts; it's like old school Metallica at about 1/8 the speed.
The U2 influences begin early. The instrumental "Life in Technicolor" feels like The Edge's guitar intro to "Where The Streets Have No Name," with "Cemeteries" feeling like the song proper. You'd swear The Edge is singing backing vocals on the fantastic "Cemeteries of London." The two pieces don't add up to the equal "Streets," but it's a fantastic way to open the album.
"42" begins like Parachutes-era Coldplay, one of the few pieces of music pairing Martin's falsetto with a piano, but that's not where it ends. The melancholy dirge plods as additional instruments are slowly introduced, and then a swell of strings and synthesizers abruptly divert it in an unexpected direction. "Lovers in Japan/Reign Of Love" works in just the opposite direction with "Lovers" playing like an update of vintage Simple Minds, an almost anthem that never fully takes flight, before giving way to the gentle "Reign of Love."