Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
* * * (out of four) ROCK

Coldplay leader Chris Martin has been of several minds when describing the inspiration for Mylo Xyloto, the band's embraceable fifth album, out today.

STORY: Coldplay approaches 'Mylo Xyloto' as a clean slate

At times, he has said he took songwriting cues from anti-Nazi movements, totalitarianism and '70s graffiti artists. At other times, he says this is simply a song cycle depicting two young lovers swallowed up in a cold city.

Turns out he was being pretty straight: Thematically and musically, Mylo Xyloto does come across as a medium-weight and up-to-date blend of middle-period U2, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Coldplay's last three albums. Co-producer Brian Eno, who oversaw 2008's Grammy-winning Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, returns and adds some faintly exotic Middle Eastern and electro-pop sounds and even a danceable rhythm or two.

Martin strikes a lightly defiant tone early on in Hurts Like Heaven when, against a surging beat, he sings, "I struggle with the feeling that my life isn't mine/Tonight the streets are ours/And we're writing and saying/Don't let 'em take control.'' And he warns in Major Minus that "they got one eye watching you … so be careful who it is you're talking to.''

But that's about as deep as the songs probe, politically.

The remainder deal with escapism and tormented romance. First single Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall celebrates taking refuge in music, while in second single Paradise, a young woman finds her release by dreaming.

Those tracks and Hurts Like Heaven showcase what the band does best: using seductive, soaring melodies as platforms for Martin's earnest vocals (his falsetto is gorgeous here) and swelling keyboards, Jonny Buckland's chiming guitar, and anthemic "whoa oh-oh" choruses.

The breakup songs are less engaging, save Princess of China, in which Rihanna, in a heartfelt been-there performance, laments, "Once upon a time we burned bright/Now all we ever seem to do is fight/On and on, and on and on and on.''

Martin and mates aren't ones to send listeners away feeling put-upon, so they wrap things up with the reassuring (and precious) Up With the Birds, which predicts that "Good things are coming our way."

>Downloadaradise, Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, Hurts Like Heaven, Princess of China