The album that will put the new EMI under its greatest global scrutiny to date is also 2008’s most eagerly awaited release. That’s the official word from Coldplay’s new boss.

The band’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends will be released June 17 in North America on Capitol. EMI Group chairman Guy Hands, who led the buyout of the music company last summer through his private-equity firm Terra Firma, says, “Right across the world, this is the most anticipated album of the year.”

As the followup to the British melodic rock band’s X&Y album of summer 2005, which scaled global sales north of 10 million units, according to the label, it’s a significant release for many reasons. Just as Viva La Vida is a bold musical statement by a group that Martin says had grown to feel “a little dirty” by the end of its last campaign, the importance of this album to the new EMI, in the midst of its management restructuring, is hard to overstate.

But Martin, sitting in the band’s own studio, the Bakery in northwest London, offers a typically relaxed and realistic interpretation.

“Being on a major label at the moment is like living in your grandparents’ house,” he says. “Everyone knows they need to move out, and they will eventually, but we kind of like our grandmother.

“It’s obviously an antiquated model, because of the Internet, but we really love the people we work with. If we knew what the solution was to everything, then we’d do it. We have absolute respect for the Radioheads and Raconteurs and people who can do what they like. We’re in contract though, so we’re just going to make the most of it and enjoy the people we get to work with.”

In a bold move to reassert its close relationship with its fans, Coldplay made the album’s first single, Violet Hill, available as a free download April 29, shifting more than two million units in its week of being available for free, according to EMI. A cover-mounted 7-inch vinyl edition of the single was given away with the May 10 issue of British weekly NME, which went on sale May 6 — the only physical version of the single to be made available, although it also went on sale at digital outlets the same day.

“Of course we want to sell a lot of records,” Martin says. “But we want to get right back to the root of everything, by saying, ‘Here you go, have a song, have a concert.’ All that other stuff we have to do because we’re in contract, that’s all going to happen, of course, but it’s just starting from that place. It makes us feel good as a group of people.”

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