"Cemeteries In London," Viva La Vida, Coldplay

Posted by AJ Harbison at 12:30 am

It took me a little longer than the other ones, but the final song I fell in love with on Viva La Vida was “Cemeteries Of London,” which is track two. The other songs on the CD, the ones I haven’t written about this week–“Life In Technicolor,” “42,” “Lovers In Japan / Reign of Love,” “Yes,” and “Strawberry Swing”–are all good songs and of course contribute to making the CD great; but the five I’ve written about this week are the ones that really stood out to me.

“Cemeteries Of London” is the first vocal track on the CD, since there are no words to “Life In Technicolor,” and it’s a really interesting song. As I said, it took me longer to understand than the others did, but once I got the feeling for the song it jumped into the ranks of my favorites on the CD. And this is what I think: It’s Coldplay’s 21st century rock-band version of a ballad of the Wild West.

You know the type of song I’m talking about. Something like the song here, although I have to admit that the first thing I thought of was this video clip (from this movie). It’s a good example, although almost a parody, of the style I’m talking about; but if you do watch the video, skip to the 50 second mark to experience as little pain watching it as possible.

But this is the type of song that “Cemeteries Of London” is. The lyrics, first of all, point to it; they’re kind of eerie and very evocative, conjuring the same type of mood as a ballad, and the chorus sounds just like one of them: “Singing la la la la la la la lay / And the night over London lay….” The chord progression and melody are very suggestive of a Western ballad too–particularly in the first two chords of the progression, minor i to major III (e.g., in the key of E minor those two chords would be E minor and G major).

I like the instrumentation of the song. The soft swirling piano figures in the first verse do a good job of setting the scene, evoking perhaps the London fog, and the guitars that take over in the second verse hearken more traditionally back to the ballad style. You can also hear hand claps enter the picture halfway through the second chorus that continue through the guitar solo. The solo itself is very interesting; apart from the first note and the return to that note upon the repeat, each note that the solo pauses on is dissonant with the concurrent chord. It sounds really cool. The second half of the solo (a repeated four-note idea) is reminiscent of a U2 solo, to my mind. The soft piano comes back at the very end of the song, playing two phrases. I didn’t like this at first, because it didn’t make sense musically; it seemed out of place and just tacked on to the end. But I grew to really like the phrases themselves, so I really enjoy it now. Perhaps it’s another example of a cyclical song, bringing the song full circle, as I wrote concerning the whole album in my post about “Death And All His Friends”.

There’s one more point about this song that I wanted to mention, related to a point I brought up in my last post about setting up expectations and then either fulfilling or frustrating them. The chorus of this song is another good example of this principle. It’s only two lines, which is short for a chorus (it’s really more like a refrain, I guess), and you expect it to be repeated, either with the same lyrics or different ones. But each time it’s kept to just the two lines–except for the last time, when it is repeated and the lyrics to the second line are slightly changed, fulfilling the expectations you’ve had all along. Another good example of the excellent songwriting.

You can listen to the song here, courtesy of Last.fm: click on the black play button in the player on the right side of the page.

And that will conclude our week of Viva La Vida posts! I hope you enjoyed them. And, while we’re talking about the week–I want to hear from you, my loyal readers. Do you like these weeklong series on a single topic or album? Do you prefer the individual posts I do the rest of the time? Would you like to see more series? Fewer? Leave a comment and let me know what you want to see–and as always, thanks for listening!



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    Darth_Harbison on 10.12.2008

    The Lone Dinosaur . . . wow . . . it’s been so long since I’ve thought about that song or that movie . . . wow. Why the heck did I ever enjoy those movies?

    Personally, I like the series. Although that may admittedly be because thus far they’ve been more about stuff that I understand than the individual posts have.

    I also feel like a week’s worth of posts on Viva la Vida was appropriate because I waited so freakin’ long to hear anything about it.

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