wed 18/10/2017

CD: Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

CD: Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

The band the whole world wants to be is back - but what do THEY want to be?

It must be tough being Coldplay (bank balances aside). To hit a formula so successful that you essentially make all of pop music sound like you is quite a weight to carry. It wasn't just the obvious Keane/Starsailor/Snow Patrol copycat bands of the noughts, nor even the reformed Take That (their 'Rule the World' was the Coldplay template taken to pop perfection). It was the American megastar soft rock singers, the rap and R&B players from Jay-Z on down, and the mainstream dance producers like Swedish House Mafia, all cashing in by getting a plaintive white guy (sometimes even Chris Martin himself) to sing some “woah woah woah”s along to a bit of soaring melancholia. The whole world now sounds like Coldplay. 

So when everything's doing what you do, where do you go next? The answer, sadly, is nowhere in particular. Coldplay have always their weaknesses – Martin's limited vocal palette and horrendously drab lyrics in particular – but when they've been on form they've consistently had the ability to start a song with an unforgettable hook, and proceed to soar upwards from there. That doesn't happen once on this album, though. There are intros that hint at something new, at maybe a maturity and exploratory direction: a touch of birdsong here, an ambient warble there – but sadly they're red herrings. The songs just never go anywhere.

There are OK moments. “Adventure of a Lifetime” does have a kick-arse intro hook: a descending guitar chime that will send stadia into overdrive when it rings out, and manages to follow through with a Talking Heads-y groove. The title track repeats exactly what U2 tried to when they “went dance” in the early 90s, albeit with rather underwhelming melodies. The waltzy “Amazing Day”, which reminds us how much Coldplay often sonically owe to Echo & The Bunnymen, passes the “drunk in the back of a cab” test for maudlin slowies. Tucked away right near the end, “Colour Spectrum,” with its massed choruses and wall-of-sound production is the one song that shows just how bonkers this band can be at their best.

But none of these have the sheer audacious simplicity of the hook on “Clocks,” or the loopy structures and sense of real transcendence of mundanity of a “Viva la Vida.” And the lows – oh man the lows... the attempts at hip hop beats that make Kasabian sound like John Coltrane, Martin trying out new “mature” (read croaky) registers and even worse attempting “funky” clipped phrasing, which is entirely like watching your dad dance, and wait, is that WILLIAM SHATNER narrating a pseudo-spiritual doodle halfway through? ... the lows outweigh the album's strengths quite severely. Perhaps saddest, there is nothing here that isn't canonical Coldplay. There's nothing that isn't Coldplay only a little diminished, entirely the opposite of the joyful optimism of the happy, ravey geometry of the artwork. When you're at the very top of the world, and everyone wants to be you, you can do anything you want. Coldplay could do absolutely anything they wanted to do. Is this really the limit of their ambition?

“Colour Spectrum,” with its massed choruses and wall-of-sound production is the one song that shows just how bonkers this band can be at their best.

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters