19 May 2014 (released)
21 May 2014
Six albums in, where in the world have they yet to conquer, bestriding the globe with their trite sweet nothings? Their bafflingly successful recipe consisting of organic over-emoting, free range missives and gluten-free exhortations of vacuity and blandishments shows no sign of abating.
That said, why would you change it? They even managed to ‘Coldplay’ sonic auteur and uber- producer Brian Eno, on the previous two albums Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends and Mylo Xyloto, his fingerprints seemingly left on the record button and nothing else. It can be hard to be totally objective when reviewing a band like Coldplay without having preconceived ideas of what to expect.
Fifteen years on from their debut there has been no significant development, if it sells big, do the same ad infinitum. Branded as music for people who don’t actually like music their songs have always struck me as dispassionate, cold and unfeeling; will this be the one to take me in its arms and console me?
Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent ‘conscious uncoupling’ is easy to mock, and God knows most do. Anyone attempting to find out the intricacies of how the ‘Bland Age’ John and Yoko’s union came apart will not come across too many revelations here. Nor will you discover how Chris in particular dealt with the fall-out, that feeling of being alone, in isolation. Who did the leaving and abandoning? What you do get is banal couplets delivered in the ‘classic’ Martin style; ‘carving your name with my pocket knife’ ‘something broken inside … all I know is that I’m lost whenever you go’ ‘I love you so, so much it hurts’ (‘Ink’),
Opener ‘Always In My Head’ carries on in this vein with its ‘I think of you, I haven’t slept’ in that oft-delivered cracked, catch-throat delivery culminating in the obligatory falsetto; reminding us of the worst of U2. Current Radio 2 favourite ‘Magic’ continues with the revelatory ‘just got broken, broken into two …. Don’t want anybody else but you’’ a hushed paean destined to be a staple of Magic radio station’s post-midnight love songs.
‘True Love’ does feature some nice wailing, rock guitar, it lasts long enough to almost forget who you are listening to. Oh wait, here’s Chrissy’s own wailing, we’re back on terror firma. ‘Midnight’ again deploys a mild (what else) change in sound, Jon Hopkin’s influence is evident with Martin’s vocals filtered through a vocoder making it reminiscent of Justin (Bon Iver) Vernon’s work with Gayngs and Volcano Choir.
‘Another"s Arms’ has similar eerie vocals to Francis Lai’s ‘Snow Frolic’ from Love Story. Now THAT was sad ending. Oceans is sparse with acoustic guitar and ambient bleeps that bring to mind a submarine at the ocean’s floor, moving slowly though the water, far away from home. Chris is Captain Nemo.
‘A Sky Full of Stars’ sees Chris splayed in the emotional gutter looking up and realising that he will recover, he can sink no further. The stars outlining the path back. It crashes in with some ivory tinkling piano before morphing into the sound of ‘now’ EDM with awful sub-Italo-disco plonking. Nightmarish. Closer ‘O’ is nailed on for a gloopy scene of a lioness and cub’s final chat before said cub goes its own way, ‘We knew this day would come, it’s time for you find out about life, love and loss, Simba. Remember, if you fall down, get up, every hurdle is but a fence in the way …’
Chris is Emperor Zero wibbling while home burns; with Curly, Larry and Mo plodding away and dulling on. The depth of the rest of the band’s input is impossible to trace; it’s Chris and his notepad, Chris and his memories, Chris and his guitar, it’s Chris, Chris, Chris. Oh Chris. Forty-two minutes have elapsed and I don’t care a jot about Chris’s travails. Count me in Team Gwynnie.
A cynic might query the timing of the split coming so soon before the promotional machine began to be cranked up. Was this written before, during or after? Additionally, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the random Coldplay lyric generator that Martin has in his empty, draughty, chateau has been raided once more.
If you are an existing fan then you will buy it, listen to it and almost certainly consign to the shelf marked ‘inconsequential’. This will not win new admirers. This is a ghost story starring Casper rather than The Woman in Black.