Asked by MTV's Gideon Yago a few years ago about the many bands that had ridden elements of the Radiohead sound, Thom Yorke all but dared his followers to try for a Kid A, the album that tipped the balance between Radiohead's pop and experimental sides squarely toward the latter. After the dull placeholding of the 2005 album X&Y;, now would be a good time for Coldplay to rise to that challenge. But does the band have a Kid A in it? A better question: Would we really want a Kid A from Coldplay? The band does soaring, soundscape-y pop well, after all.
Whatever the case, Viva La Vida sounds as if it comes as close to the experimental edge as Coldplay dares. It isn't a bad place for the group to be. The distorted guitars of the first single, "Violet Hill," prove to be an anomaly, but the album finds frontman Chris Martin and the rest of the band, perhaps egged on by new producer Brian Eno, experimenting with new sounds and zigzag song structures throughout. The result is an instantly familiar sound that avoids repeating itself. Martin's heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics won't win over any doubters, but tracks like the title cut and "Lost!" should keep the hits coming, and the rest of the album will please fans hoping to hear the band push its sound a little further. But not, you know, too far.