Review: Coldplay - A Head Full of Dreams
Could this really be Coldplay's last album?
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Coldplay are back, and mercifully they’re not feeling quite as miserable as on their previous effort, the post-divorce ‘Ghost Stories’. Gwyneth Paltrow is even on backing vocals at one point on latest album ‘A Head Full of Dreams’, as if to prove that there are no hard feelings after their ‘conscious uncoupling’. Sadly though, although Chris Martin has discovered his inner happiness, Coldplay haven’t quite got their mojo back.
There’s nothing that’s as catchy as 'Paradise', as clever as 'Viva la Vida', or as soulful as 'Yellow' here. Instead, Coldplay have almost become a parody of themselves, for the most part delivering bloated anthems which lack a real emotional core.
Nearly every song has a bit where Martin goes ‘wo-o-o,’ ‘woo-hoo,’ ‘oh-oh-oh,’ or some other noise that’s meant to be elating. You can tell he’s putting his heart into it, and it does occasionally sound really good, but surely it wasn’t necessary on all of the tracks! When there are lyrics, Martin seems to be rattling through a list of tired clichés. On 'Army of One', he sings ‘you make my heart boom ba boom boom’. If that isn’t true romance, then what is?
All of the bass riffs are really annoying. Just listen out for them, and you’ll agree. 'Everglow' is a moribund and slightly dull piano ballad with no real chorus. 'Amazing Day' resolves into a lethargic sway, as if Martin is demanding we all put our arms in the air and wave them meaningfully.
But it’s not all bad. When Coldplay make a concerted effort not to sound like Coldplay, the results are marvellous (although this is admittedly a bit of a backhanded compliment). The best song on the album is undoubtedly 'Hymn for the Weekend', an RnB-light effort with Beyoncé on backing vocals. It’s catchy, it’s got funky brass bits and an irresistible swagger. It’s fantastic.
If only the band had the bravery to continue experimenting! Unfortunately, much of the album sounds exactly the same as 2011’s 'Mylo Xyloto', just not quite as good. Occasionally the group go and deliver a song like 'Up&Up', which reminds you that Martin has a real knack for soaring, earworm melodies, especially when he tones things down a bit. But then their lead single is the energetic mess that is 'Adventure of a Lifetime'—the guitar riff and the vocal sampling are both deeply annoying, and the real melody only kicks in about a minute before the end.
The release of this album was accompanied by Chris Martin’s mutterings about it being Coldplay’s final album, which I have to say I don’t quite believe, but we’ll see how things turn out. Although they can’t exactly be said to be going out on a high, now is as good a time as any to throw in the towel.
Mocking Coldplay may have become a national sport, but they are a band that have achieved an awful lot, and have written a handful of really great songs. The real tragedy is that their latest output cannot live up to the lofty heights of their earlier material.