"Yes" is another of these hybrid tracks. I'm sure this makes sense to the band, but I don't see how these two distinct movements are related. There is a mysterious, almost sinister feel to the opening as Martin sings in his lower register – a rarity from him – against a backdrop of swirling, exotic strings. The vaporous second movement is sonically interesting but the elliptical sequence of the record starts to wear thin.
Fortunately "Viva La Vida," the catchiest song on the record, follows. "Viva" gives a strong nod to the Doves' "Pounding." Although the bounce is a slow one, "Viva" is augmented by a soaring string arrangement. While "Viva" is catchier, "Violet Hill" feels more like a proper single. "Strawberry Swing" isn't as strong, but this trio is the only sequence where the album feels conventional; it's song, followed by song, followed by song.
"Death And All His Friends" encapsulates the record and brings it full circle. The understated intro segues into arguably the most anthemic moment on the record and ends with a reprise of "Life in Technicolor." It's a masterful achievement. Images of flickering cellphones dance in my head when I listen to Martin's layered vocals repeat the refrain "No I don't want to battle from beginning to end/I don't want a cycle of recycled revenge/I don't want to follow Death and all of his friends." Brilliant.
The disappointment of X&Y made me wonder if I'd ever look forward to another Coldplay record, and Viva La Vida has answered that question by restoring my faith in the band. I miss some of the memorable melodies that were crucial to their earlier success, but the rich textures of Viva are nearly as rewarding if not quite as immediate.