Sydney Morning Herald JUNE 14, 2008 - by Bernard Zuel


In Lost!, track three on Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends - Coldplay's fourth album, which is released today - the band's tall, Gwyneth-squiring, well-off, somewhat diffident sex symbol, singer and pianist, Chris Martin, sings "just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost / doesn't mean I'll stop".

Losing? Lost? Not bleeding likely. At least not in any sense that would ring true with your average-looking, wage-earning buyer of a Coldplay album.

Before we even acknowledge that Lost! is likely to be the soundtrack for many a television sports show reel this year for those "brave fight" montages so loved by producers, we know that Coldplay's previous three albums - Parachutes (2000), A Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002) and X&Y (2005) - sold more than thirty-two million copies around the world. They are responsible for spawning scores of imitators from Perth, Scotland, to Perth, Western Australia.

The only thing that Martin and bandmates Jonny Buckland, Will Champion and Guy Berryman could be said to have lost is any innocence about what happens when you write songs that people fall in love with, or fall in love to.

However, the sense of uncertainty that Martin in particular displays is as vital to the appeal of this English quartet as their careful blending of hearts-on- the-sleeve rock and tears-on-the-pillow pop ballads.

Even when bestriding the globe two years ago they offered themselves as men stumbling into the light of our attention, shy and free of any breastbeating. What they are clear about is that this album is a response to not just the grandiosity of X&Y but the reactions to it, theirs and ours.

"It's fair to say that record was problematic," Buckland told the NME. "[Flabby]? Yeah, we think that, too, now." For Martin it was a case of "everybody felt like they had to rip it up and start again."

So they recorded in their own studio, working faster than they had before and bringing in a new producer, Markus Dravs, and the iconoclast's iconoclast, Brian Eno, to shake up their formula.

There are unexpected sounds on Viva La Vida - a resistance to taking the easy route and a sudden interest in revolutionary tracts. Or at least the imagery of revolution, with the album cover being a defaced reproduction of Delacroix's Liberty Leading The People, a gussied-up representation of the French Revolution. Oh yes, and according to Martin the album also has "sex and death and love and fear and travels and girls and illness".

What there is also is free stuff. They allowed free downloads of the album's first single, Violet Hill - the track was downloaded more than two million times, according to one estimate - and gave it away with a magazine. They are launching the album with free concerts in London, Barcelona and New York.

Free or otherwise, there is little doubt that Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends will be, at least initially, a big noise on the charts and in the public consciousness on its release today. There are precious few acts that can command this sort of attention and most of them are called Madonna or U2. Coldplay aren't far behind that headline-grabbing duo.

Whether that interest can be sustained in a market increasingly resistant to actually buying albums, preferring to download or copy or just ignore, is anybody's guess. But as Chris Martin sings in Lost!, "just because I'm hurting doesn't mean I'm hurt / doesn't mean I didn't get what I deserve".