July 31, 2008


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Coldplay, Viva La Vida
Capitol Records, June 17
Radiohead, Best of Radiohead
Capitol Records, June 3

Best of Radiohead came in nearly two months ago, and I really only bring it up to mention that it’s the closest match to the new Coldplay to be found in my most recently filled milk crates, being that both are deeply immersive commuter experiences. The depth of Radiohead’s most user-friendly tuneage (all the gloomy-Gus, oh-shut-up-already filler taken out of the equation through the blessed magic of best-of-ness) can be remarkable, a mash of trippy stuff pattern-matched to the twists and turns of normal-people life, a pulsing, shifting microcosm of something not so much fascinating but similar to the weird-stupid movie you physically can’t bring yourself to remote-control yourself away from. Same for Viva La Vida, kind of, though one gets the immediate impression that while Radiohead were reading Wuthering Heights the Coldplay bums were watching Gilligan’s Island with pop radio playing in the background and a chick on the phone. Of course, heh heh, fans of either band aren’t wrong in digging them, you likes what you likes, and Coldplay does a lot of people-pleasing this time with their Siamese-twin song “structures” – the chunk of shoegaze that comes surging out of a Beck-like exercise (“Yes”); the John Lennon piano that turns into Muse doing ’70s pop (“42”); the inspiring Arcade Fire saloon-piano drum-your-thighs-along whose other half resembles a mid-career Radiohead bum-out (“Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love” -- at least those two particular separate songs got a piece of delimiting punctuation), and the U2-into-Bollywood kick-asser (“Cemeteries of London”). Beatles thievery is a Where’s Waldo throughout, which may or may not have been intentional but is quite telling either way; Viva La Vida definitely, madly doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s adequate escapism. Radiohead grade: A Coldplay grade: B-Eric W. Saeger