Coldplay - Ghost Stories
A new Coldplay album finds doubters searching for a new way to describe shooting fish in a barrel. A soft target, Chris Martin's recent use of the term "unconscious coupling" will probably give many the jumping off point for another thorough drubbing. Once a well loved British band, with songs for funerals and weddings alike, their position as biggest band overseas also rankles the critics. We don't like success - especially when it's dressed up in the uniform of anthemic indie-tinged rock.
Ghost Stories will, however, please fans. Coldplay have hopped in the shower and washed away the glitter and confetti. They've gone and got themselves a bucket and scrubbed off the Mylo Xyloto graffiti from the walls of their house. It's back to basics - or at least as far back as this band will ever get. Coldplay sound more like early Coldplay than they have for a long time.
The most obvious way to look at the album is as excerpts from Chris Martin’s diaries from the lead up to his split from wife Gwyneth Paltrow. That melancholia is felt throughout and lyrically this sounds like an album written by someone trying to get to grips with losing a loved one, literally from the opening lines of ‘Always In My Head’ (“I think of you / I haven’t slept / I think I do / I don’t forget”). It’s a reflective, thoughtful tune, not the bombast of their recent output. ‘Midnight’ has the feel of Sigur Ros: the droning, heavy bass and the autotuned vocals - it resists building to a trademark Coldplay crescendo. For a band not known for restraint, it's pretty impressive. The lyrical break-up theme continues through the lead single ‘Magic’ (“No I don’t, no I don’t, no I don’t, no I don’t / Want anybody else but you”), 'True Love' and its off key guitar solo (“Tell me you love me / If you don’t then lie to me”) and the self-explanatory ‘Another’s Arms’. The foursome can’t quite make it through a full album without some euphoric piano action though, and ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’ delivers in spades, sounding like a leftover from Mylo Xyloto sessions. And even that can’t get away from the breakup (“I don’t care / Go on and tear me apart”).
Listen: despite the change in vibe, haters still going to hate. If you’re a fan though, either now or way back when, or you've got an open mind, there is much here to like and enjoy. There are some excellent songs and Martin has bared his soul in a way you may not have thought possible. This is Coldplay at their rawest and most potent.