Important clarification: we actually rather enjoyed Coldplay‘s last album. Ghost Stories felt like a positive step for the band, away from stadium-chasing MOR songs and something a little more intimate. Aided by electronic trickery, this unorthodox break-up album won us over with its candlelight melodies and emphasis on subtlety from a band that had certainly lost it.
One step forward, then, and two almighty steps back on A Head Full of Dreams it seems. Riffing on U2‘s famous guitar progressions on the title track, all of that quiet beauty from the last album is lost within the first few minutes alone as Chris Martin and Bono slowly merge into one disconcertingly concerted effort to rouse a singalong.
It’s quite obvious what Coldplay are attempting on this record – it’s the light to the previous album’s shade, except said illumination being more akin to switching on a floodlight. It’s harsh and artificial on songs like Bird, and shining in all the wrong places with the Beyonce feature Hymn For The Weekend, whose melodies are both rudimentary and annoying.
There creeps in a sense of fun on Adventure Of A Lifetime – the only properly enjoyable track on the album – but then ironically it’s missing on a song actually called Fun (with yet another wasted feature in the form of Tove Lo – seriously Coldplay, how you gonna troll us by sanitising two banger-ready pop stars?). What it boils down to is rather simple: Coldplay want to play ‘happy’ but it just comes off hugely forced and insincere, like some tired socialite working a room with second-hand compliments while thinking about how to OD back at home. It might be termed admirable but it feels rather transparent, and A Head Full of Dreams could certainly do with that sharp reminder of reality.
A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay can be ordered here.