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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Coldplay, "Camp Rock" and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2008

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Coldplay, “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends” (Capitol) ***1/2

Eugene Delacroix’s French Revolution homage “Leading the People” is wholly appropriate cover art for Coldplay’s fourth album. There’s a revolution going on here, alright, a move away from the taut directness of its predecessors into a new kind of sonic world that’s every bit, and perhaps even more, captivating. In other words, the immediate hooks of “Clocks” and “Speed of Sound” are largely gone — though the chorus melody of the title track, which you know from the iPod commercial, comes close. Instead, thanks to coproducer Brian Eno, Coldplay finds itself awash in washes of sound, a muscular ambience that gives the quartet plenty of room to maneuver, but with subtlety and restraint that gives weight to delicate nuances within the arrangements. Bordered by a pair of shimmering, circular instrumentals — “Life in Technicolor” and “The Escapist,” which bleeds into the former when the album’s on auto-repeat — the nine songs on “Vida La Vida” focus on beauty and melancholy, as frontman Chris Martin assures us that “Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost.” Keyboards and, in some cases, strings may dominate this landscape, but some of the most memorable moments belong to guitarist Jonny Buckland, whether it’s the Edge-y bite he employs at the end of “Cemeteries of London” or the folky strum that kicks off “Yes (Chinese Sleep Chant).” “Lovers in Japan” reminds us this is a band that knows how to shake an arena, but when it flows into the trippy, Eastern-flavored coda of “Reign of Love” and, later, the breezy countryside vibe of “Strawberry Swing,” it’s a reminder of how far and wide Coldplay is determined to swing this time out. If it takes some getting used to, so be it; “Viva la Vida” is worth the attention and ultimately delivers something more than just another rush of blood to the head.


Soundtrack, “Camp Rock” (Walt Disney) **

The next “High School Musical?” It will be if Disney has its way. For now it’s a vehicle for the established Jonas Brothers and newbie Demi Lovato, a 15-year-old Mileyalike who’s the TV movie’s star. But neither dominates this 12-track smorgasbord of contemporary (if not cutting edge) pop that features techy dance tracks (“Start the Party,” “Too Cool,” “2 Stars”), Avril Lavigne-style chick rock (“Who Will I Be?”), a touch of hip-hop (“Hasta La Vista,” which they even spell out) and “deep” selfaffirmations (“Here I Am”). Missing, however, are the buoyant ensemble numbers that gave “High School Musical” its verve. The “Camp” rockers are all in this, but not necessarily together.


Eef Barzelay, “Lose Big” (429 Records): The former Clem Snide frontman recorded his first solo album at Ben Folds’ studio in Nashville.

Chicago, “Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus” (Rhino): The veteran group’s “lost” album, recorded in 1993 and rejected by the group’s label, finally makes it out of the vaults.

Anthony David, “Acey Deucey” (SoulBird Music/ Universal Republic): The R&B singer from Georgia makes the first release for India.Arie’s new label.

Grupo Fantasma, “Sonidos Gold” (Aire Sol/ High Wire Music): Saxophone legend Maceo Parker is among the guests on the latest album by this 11-piece culture-crossing troupe from Austin, Texas.

Mick Hucknall, “Tribute to Bobby” (Rhino): The first solo album from the Simply Red frontman pays homage to R&B and blues great Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Judas Priest, “Nostradamus” (Epic): A two-CD concept piece about the life of the famed soothsayer. Somewhere, the spirit of Spinal Tap is smiling.

Chante Moore, “Love the Woman” (Peak): After excursions into gospel and theater, Moore returns to the mainstream R&B world for the first time in eight years.

Richie McDonald, “I Turn to You” (Loremoma):

The former Lonestar frontman takes a gospel path on his first solo album since leaving the band.

The Notwist, “The Devil, You + Me” (Domino): The sixth album by the German indie rockers with the electronic bent.

The Offspring, “Fall, Rage and Grace” (Columbia): The California punk quartet toughens things up with producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Mötley Crüe) on its first new release in five years.

Carla Olson & the Textones, “Detroit ’85 — Live & Unreleased” (Collector’s Choice); Carla Olson & Mick Taylor, “Too Hot For Snakes (Plus)” (Collector’s Choice):

A pair of welcome archival sets gives some well-deserved due to unsung Texas singer-songwriter Olson.

The Orb, “The Dream” (Six Degrees): The British electronic group welcomes Martin “Youth” Glover back to the fold for this ’90s-leaning set of sonic architecture.

Katy Perry, “One of the Boys” (Capitol): Madonna has called this young singersongwriter’s “Ur So Gay” her favorite song of the moment, so decide which way that endorsement steers you.

Silver Jews, “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea” (Drag City): The Nashville indie rockers’ sixth album follows the sextet’s first-ever tour in 2006.

Sister Hazel, “Before the Amplifiers, Live Acoustic” (Rock Ridge): The Florida rock quintet unplugs for this 16-song concert set.

Teddy Thompson, “A Piece of What You Need” (Verve Forecast): The third release from the son of Richard and Linda Thompson.

2 Pistols, “Death Before Dishonor” (Universal Republic): T-Pain, Ray J, Trey Songz, Slick Pulla and others guest on this Florida rapper’s debut album.

Valient Thorr, “Immortalizer” (Volcom):

The North Carolina headbangers return with their fourth album, resuming activity after taking a break so frontman Valient Himself could donate a kidney to his ailing father.

Dennis Wilson, “Pacific Ocean Blue — Legacy Edition” (Epic/Legacy): A revelatory, expanded repackaging of the late Beach Boy’s 1977 solo album.

Wolf Parade, “At Mount Zoomer” (Sub Pop): The second album from the Seattleformed band that now calls Montreal home.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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