Music Reviews
Everyday Life

Coldplay Everyday Life

(Parlophone) Rating - 6/10

It’s been a decade of diminishing returns for Coldplay. Living in the colossal shadow of Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, the band spent the last 10 years focusing more on the pop zeitgeist instead of strong songwriting with noticeably substandard results. It came to a nadir with the atrocious, sugary A Head Full of Dreams. Everyday Life course corrects back towards a mix of their experimental tendencies, songwriting craft, and pop sensibilities. It takes listeners on a flawed, but intriguing journey that brings out the band’s best tendencies, but also some of their worst.

Everyday Life can boast some of the most sonically adventurous songs in Coldplay’s catalog. If there’s one track you listen to, it should be Arabesque. The tune swaggers (yes, swaggers!) with a scratchy acoustic guitar, Jonny Buckland’s bluesy electric noodling and glorious bursts of horns. It’s the sound of wandering through a vibrant, bustling bazaar. Other tracks show off a beautiful, classical vibe, with the strings of Sunrise made to score a tragic silent film and Bani Adam (titled as بنی آدم) moving from a piano waltz into an echoing guitar line.

Trouble In Town prowls with a low-key rumble underneath piano keys and Chris Martin’s near-whisper vocals. Just as you think that’s all there is, disturbing audio of a police officer unlawfully harassing a civilian comes up, as the band moves into an aggressive jam. It may not be subtle but it’s damn effective. On the other hand, the acoustic Guns finds Martin sounding like a teenager who just made his first political statement and thinks he’s really deep. You will roll your eyes several times at the lyrics. Guns are bad. Who knew?!

Attempted genre pastiches are hit or miss. While Cry Cry Cry is a compelling journey into Billie Holiday style jazz-soul, the gospel spiritual of BrokEn doesn’t do enough to justify its inclusion. The Gregorian chant of When I Need A Friend is good for a novelty listen and that’s about it. WOTW / POTP tries to come off like a one-take, lo-fi track, but it’s just dull.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Coldplay album without anthems, the best of which is Orphans. With a shouting children’s choir, a wonderful bounce and an addictive earworm chorus, it’s their greatest success in writing this type of song since Viva La Vida. It’s near impossible to feel down while listening to it. The midtempo Church is another example of Coldplay distilling their sound to its essence, but pulling it off with focus and electricity. Champion Of The World is just as easy-going, riding off the back of a great guitar hook.

The low-key tracks that work best are those where Martin gets out of his own way. Èkó is a breezy blend of bright acoustic guitar riffs and melancholy piano chords, all led by one of Martin’s strongest vocal performances to date. It brings to mind the simplicity and potency of Parachutes. But Daddy wastes a sad and lovely piano arrangement with insipid lyrics more likely to cause giggling than the tears. The title track is a bit cheesy, but at an acceptable level for Coldplay. The banal moments are balanced out by the understated sweeps of its strings.

Everyday Life may not be able to reach the peaks of Coldplay’s work in the 2000s or have the discipline of the mostly-minimalist Ghost Stories, but it shows a level of creativity, imagination and sheer enjoyment in making music that felt like it had been lost. There are many paths that Coldplay can take from here, good and bad. Hopefully, they’ll follow their muse and walk that tightrope between the head and the heart. After all, isn’t that what everyday life is about?