Keith Goldhanger sits down with a cup of tea and a large packet of ginger biscuits to review the eighth Coldplay album.
LP/CD/DL – Parlophone/Atlantic
No drugs were taken in the making of this record and that’s just the first of a few things I’m going to be making up about Coldplay in this review.
I don’t know, but at a wild guess I imagine that Chris Martin, the two others whose names I was going to Google (but can’t be arsed now) and the drummer are pretty clean living. They probably always have been, it seems apparent in their music. Quite ordinary, straight, risk free and polite. Sometimes ordinary is OK though, sometimes its nice to hear something nice and simple you can sit back and drink a cup of tea to even if a larger percentage of our lives is usually spent searching out something slightly more unique, challenging and inspiring.
Whilst we’ve all been spending the last few years chasing the next adrenaline rush after the last adrenaline rush in the world of rock and roll and getting our thrills here there and everywhere this lot have all now moved into their big houses, along with loads of rescued abandoned animals. They all have zoo’s in the back garden situated on the other side of a high wall that sits next to the swimming pool and they get to chomp away on a big vegan roast every Sunday afternoon, cooked by their servants with their huge families by their side whilst they slap each other hard on the backs and smoke big cigars (probably – I don’t know, that’s all been made up as well).
Being ordinary can have its benefits but this is one album too far to be honest.
And they’ve released it just before Christmas.
The opportunist bastards.
I’d love to be in Coldplay though.
Imagine not having to get up to go to work and having all that time available to sit on the end of your bed for hours with an acoustic guitar, occasionally strolling into the piano room to tinker away at midday in your underpants, hang-glide down to the studio, invite some musicians over that you met on holiday and bang out a song before supper is served.
It’s easy to mock Coldplay. We all do it but I don’t think we’d want them to change their ways really do we? – That Glastonbury headline performance when they came on and played half a dozen cracking new tunes before anything anyone had heard before. What a brilliant moment that was even if a few years later you’re still all reading this wondering if I’m being serious or taking the piss ?
There’s nothing wrong with Coldplay. They’re not expected to come out and start questioning our political motives as the bloke from Blur has been doing recently and they’re not like the Who, moaning about people moaning about people that are moaning about Brexit.
I’d let Coldplay buy me a pint.
Every time you hear one of these tunes on this album though you can easily imagine the band meeting, all four wearing matching jumpers (We’re imagining this so its not a lie) that proceeded the writing of a check list that reads, happy song, sad song, run of the mill Coldplay song with some huge sing a long backing vocals (and if in doubt about the one you’re thinking of using, nick the one from Sympathy for the Devil) , acoustic number, song that sounds like Echo & the Bunnymen, a Christmas song that won’t mention Christmas, one to make us cry with joy and a song to make us cry helplessly as we’re reminded not only of the greatest things in life but the most terrible things as well.
And stick them all on one album as soon as they’re done.
They’ve actually achieved this with aplomb, almost effortlessly it appears.
‘Chuck another tune on the album and let us know when we have enough songs, it’ll go straight to number one anyway…’
you can imagine them saying.
‘…We’re not touring this time, everyone will only want to hear the old ones again, maybe we should play a gig or two in some small museum or church and give any money we make to charity’ ?
They’re not bad people, they’ve given us some great moments over the past couple of decades but this double album doesn’t really contain any of them.
Having trawled through this new Coldplay album two hundred times now I can conclude that there are one or two tunes on this that you could imagine being played in front of a Somerset horizon but even during these we’d be nipping to the loo or back to the bar as they were being performed.
One wonders what came first then, the decision not to tour this album or the songs that we’re not sure we’d want to hear in a massive stadium anyway? It’s difficult to listen to this album without imagining what they’d sound like in a huge stadium and the ones that we can imagine being played may not be as bombastic or euphoric as the songs they’ve already given us in the past. With a few thousand flickering lights though, lasers, collaborations with some very famous people and someone to cuddle up to they could possible pull it off but nothing is really good enough on this that offers our imagination anything better than what they’ve pulled off in the past.
Orphans is the most Coldplay sounding Coldplay song they’ve ever written.
Over 40 million people will have watched the video for this by the end of the year -its the will of the people, the Big Mac of Indie music and a tune people will hear and recognise straight away that the band are still giving the listener what is expected from them. If the band have chosen these sixteen songs (17 if you get the Japanese edition) from a pot or 50 or 60 other tunes they’ve been working on over the past four years then the best thing to consider is how lucky we’ve been that this is only a double album and not anything more.
A lot of this album is hold music with Chris Martin singing over the top, music to pipe into lifts maybe ? Once or twice during the album it’s typical Coldplay with Chris Martin (and lots of other people) singing over the top. You get the feeling at the end of it that you’ve been collard by the neighbour for fifty minutes trapped in the corner looking at their holiday photos. It’s not exactly inspiring, it’s more self indulgent than anything we’ve heard from other bands of this size for years (maybe ever).
The radio (Ga Ga) friendly Champion of the World is their ‘Everything’s brilliant’ moment. Yet again very Coldplay but also very ‘Bunnymen’ with terrible childish lyrics that Ian McCulloch & co would certainly have bettered had they penned this in Liverpool as opposed to on a desert island overlooking the Mediterranean whilst living in a big house, with big windows (things are being made up again, they may have used that Bakery in Hampstead again for all I know). Arabesque, the albums highlight could be Nottingham band Six by Seven once you’ve got past all those bloody trumpets, Saxophones and (far too) flash guitar licks (and French lyrics – so nothing like Six by Seven at all then).
The most annoying thing about this album is that this style of euphoria arm waving music (because to be quite honest the miserable stuff isn’t really something one really needs in their lives) is being bettered by so many other young bands currently playing shows in pubs around the country in 2019 (ones you haven’t had to buy very expensive tickets to witness six months in advance). Whereas Coldplay may not essentially be pushing themselves to achieve anything different with this album, the kids who would have been listening to Parachutes on their way to primary school in their mums 4 x 4’s back in 2003 have learnt over the years that many of the good bits Coldplay gave us back then have been worth digesting and building their own ideas upon. Twenty years is enough time to emulate these choruses without anyone noticing now or caring anymore and the tunes being written in a similar vein by (loosely) similar bands in this decade are certainly more thrilling to experience than anything on here.
Coldplay haven’t really wandered too far off the path they’ve already cut themselves then. They’ve dragged in loads of people on this because they can. They’ve made it a double album and labelled the discs Sunrise and Sunset because they can and they’ve decided not to tour this because they’ve probably still not recovered after touring for the past twenty years anyway and want to address some concerns regarding travel and the environmental impact of the shows. Again, this is a good thing that shouldn’t be mocked.
Only time will tell if any of these songs on Everyday Life will give us moments to compare with those nights experiences inside the football stadiums, raising our pints in the air with our flickering wristbands and wondering if the bloke in the wings really is the one from The Bee Gees. One of us around here thinks not.
If the listener is in the mood for hearing a song to make them cry then ‘Daddy’ may not be that tune. Sinéad O’Connor managed this better with Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares to you’ – That emotion has already been done already (in fact everything on this album has been done already, sometimes by Coldplay themselves). Daddy is far too soppy and may only really be any good if it was being played a couple of miles away in another field.
The previously mentioned Champion of the World may attract the attention of an eleven year old but it’s not one for the parents who would still rather be singing the backing vocals to Viva La Vida. When I need a Friend is basically what one would expect to hear on Songs Of Praise. One for the Granny’s then (another target audience along with the newly acquired under twelves). The toe curling awful Guns is basically Chris Martin thrashing away getting pissed on his acoustic guitar whilst swearing not very convincingly. Here, we feel short changed again because out there are a million other people doing the same thing but better. BrokEn sounds as though it was made especially for sitting around a set of traffic lights to but with a bus load of gospel singers (about to superglu themselves to the fire engine) thrown in for the heck of it.
Buying Coldplay stuff for other people at Christmas, or any other time of the year is like buying chocolate – the buyer knows what they’re getting – the receiver will appreciate it because its not something most people would buy for themselves. Anyone else in the room will know what it is. Its an album – a pretty ordinary album that sounds as though it’s the result of Chris Martin sitting on the edge of his bed for too long at the end of a long day having just fed a school of orphans or just finished cleaning all those big windows we imagine he might have in his house.
One wonders if Coldplay fans will even think much of this album as well. It’s an unrestrained self gratifying, normal, pretentious, miserable and cliched album. It’s like all the previous ones but without any decent eyebrow raising arm waving songs on it. Its an album with no surprises on it, they’ve re-written songs that already exist, not a lot of effort appears to have gone into the making of this album and not much effort is required to listen to it.
The drummers name I’ve remembered is Will, there’s no way they’d ever want to meet me for a pint anyway and I doubt any of you were considering buying this for anyone. Thanks for reaching this far down the page and you can thank me for suggesting this stocking filler when you’re out Christmas shopping this year next year and every other year until the ninth one arrives. A ninth album I’ll still want to listen to a few times just so I can qualify myself to form an opinion about this band with some justification.
Coldplay then, have made a rather shit album. An album that is crying out for a Jon Hopkins remix or two however, at least I’ve actually listened to it (and probably will do again a couple more times) so you don’t have to if you don’t want to. They’re the good guys though which we need to remember regardless of what many people may think of their music.
Happy new year – Normal service will soon be resumed.
Words by Keith Goldhanger, photo by Mike Ainscoe. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).You may subscribe to the Goldhanger Shorts Facebook page too if you so wish.