Two of the most popular bands from across the pond in recent years—Mumford & Sons and Coldplay—have unmistakable spiritual currents flowing through their music. Yet Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, who was raised in a Christian home, has tended not to get too specific when addressing his faith. In 2008, he told Ireland's Independent: "I'm always trying to work out what 'He' or 'She' is. I don't know if it's Allah or Jesus or Mohammed or Zeus. But I'd go for Zeus."

Now comes Coldplay with an album that displays a cafeteria approach in its scope and ambition. Mylo Xyloto strives to be melodic and grandiose, thoughtful and commercial, a big seller but not a sellout. It's the artistic equivalent of trying to serve Zeus and mammon, and it doesn't come without risks. There's a lot of digital recording wizardry, anthems fit for fist-pumping in a full arena and, in spots, mawkish indulgence.

One track, "Princess of China," is about as overblown and synthetic as they come. Though Martin has worked with Jay-Z and Kanye West, he's not very funky here—the brick wall of synths and drum machines sounds like so much Euromall Muzak. Rihanna's guest vocal only cranks the disco-cheese meter up a notch, and you can't help wondering why Martin didn't save this duet for the outtake pile. Maybe inviting Rihanna to the party was supposed to broaden the band's appeal.