Up front, I am not really a Coldplay fan. Also up front, I love the Batman universe. Occasionally this infatuation seeps out into my everyday life. Like now. If I become as Two Face, writing this review using my polite persona, as Two Face the rambunctious side of my personality would appear in the background. The most obvious form of that would be that he would insert his crass commentary in brackets. (Because I’m abundantly awesome. And honest.)
I just saw Coldplay in a very small venue not far from here. (I bet they had to LOCK YOU IN THAT ROOM…) It was them and just a few other people. Their performance was real, imperfect and intimate, a close journey through emotions and musical styles.
That’s what this album felt like.
“Sunrise” was the dawn of this album, featuring poignant strings. It opened the curtains on the album, heralding the journey to be undertaken. (Stop the bus! I’ve changed my mind. I want to get off!) The title is extremely apt, as it felt like a sunrise and the textures of sound felt very much like Coldplay. (The high pitched strings made my ears bleed.)
“Church” opened in a divine manner, again with many musical textures. It sounded like a bubbling brook. (Or someone having a pee.) I enjoyed the pulsing nature of it at the beginning. There’s complexity to the sound, but not confusion. (Don’t mention the irritating vocal elements.)
“Trouble in Town” was troubled indeed. It sounded like a jam, with the keyboards and guitars having a raw feel. It had powerful substance and was somber, telling of racial unrest and it included mobile phone audio of racial profiling from Philadelphia. I enjoyed the way that the guitar flowed in and out and the vocals were low key. This worked well, sounding conspiratorial and reflective. The track gained intensity, ramping up the disquiet to reflect the weight of the subject matter. The track calmed down again and closed with heartbeat-like sounds.
“BrokEn” (What’s with the capital ‘E’? Is the keyboard brokEn?) was a break from what we’ve heard so far. It had a groovy, small room feel that is gospel inspired. (Like, praying for the album to stop.) It’s a prayer for guidance through turbulent times. The track is short (mercifully) and featured a choir and finger snapping to give it a church choir feel.
“Daddy” was a heartbreaking track about the pain and loneliness experienced by an orphaned child, but it’s more that – it was about the crushing weight of loss and uncertainty that we all experience. It opened with a heartbeat-like sound that signalled that this track was about matters of the heart. It had a childlike musicality and was achingly sad and plaintive.
“WOTN/POTP” had that small room feel again. (Like a toilet.) The acoustic guitars had an imperfect sound that I really enjoyed. It felt like people were playing on the back porch, particularly as the background noises sounded like people going about their everyday lives. (Funny that… with the album’s title…)
“Arabesque” sauntered forward with a big band sound. This caught me unawares, as the previous track were nothing like this one. The track order was implemented in a very clever fashion. This track contained a message of peace, conveyed through an Afrobeat groove. The bass was tangible and leant the track a sense of weight. A 2 minute sax solo didn’t feel out of place. This track was the centrepiece of the album, Coldplay at their very best. (Or worst, depending on your perspective.) The track built in complexity, adding layers, before ending abruptly. (Thank God. That lllllllooooonnnnngggggg sax solo…)
“When I Need a Friend” (I need a Panadol.) was another change of sound, using rain sounds (pee) and leaning heavily on vocals. It also featured a section in another language, adding to the worldwide connections that are interwoven into this music.
“Guns” shot forth with angry acoustic guitars, played at a faster pace that has featured so far. It is a track that condemned the folly of the urban arms race, where guns are seen as the solution to all issues. It also pointed out children are encouraged to buy into this at an early age. One line was apt, “Everyone’s gone fucking crazy.” (No arguments here…) I also enjoyed, “War is good for business.”
“Orphans” was a track that encourages us to see refugees as people: not refugees. The sound was quite beautiful. (Hippy!) It also spoke of people wanting to return to the dignity of a ‘normal’ life, enjoying the little things that we take for granted. It was a soothing take on a serious subject. (I liked the “woo woo” vocals. It reminded me of Thomas the Tank Engine.) This track had an anthemic feel and it’s abrupt end took me by surprise. (Or, relief.)
“Eko” spoke of the beauty of Lagos. It had another beautiful sound, using the sounds of children in the background. (Were they running away?) It was soothing and calm and it swept me away. Its syncopated nature was encapsulating. (Like a straightjacket.)
“Cry Cry Cry” (I’ve been crying for 30 minutes…) had a southern/ gospel feel, with an auditory crackle to give it texture. This was another groovy offering that shifted pace throughout. It had a message of support through tough times. The keyboards were the star, with the sound being full and intricate.
“Old Friends” had an acoustic, flamenco-like guitar and the small room feeling was again apparent. (Solitary confinement, you mean.) The calm vocals and the arrangement of the track indeed felt like an old friend.
“Bani Adam”(You looked this up on the google machine – it’s in Arabic on the album. Twats.) had a pleasant piano opening with no vocals, that continued up until the middle of the track. It morphed from that point onward to a more Coldplay-like sound, featuring a heavier bass element and echoing guitars. It was a cultural fusion, with lyrics from another language used. The track had peace and love as its central theme. (Hippy!)
“Champion of the World” will be a singalong anthem, encouraging us to rise above whatever challenges life brings us. (Like this album.) It encouraged us to struggle through the hard times. (Like I struggled through the metaphors.) It may be a bit syrupy, however.
“Everyday Life” opened with the sounds of people. It’s a simple (inoffensive) opening, acknowledging that we are united in our humanity. (Or some shit.) One lyric irritated me, “Everyone hurts, everyone cries, everyone sees colour in each other’s eyes.” I mentioned this to my wife, who explained that this is a reference to the use of colour in Coldplay concerts and sharing that experience with others, seeing the colour in the eyes of others. She also said that was a reference to their other work, that colour is a theme. (Rookie!)
This album was moody collection of music that had two distinct halves – “Sunrise” and “Sunset”. It is consistent and unified work that is cluttered, but not heavy. (Pretentious, you mean.) There’s gentle acoustic guitars, deeply emotional piano melodies and wistful, lilting vocals. (Enough for a diabetic coma.)
The sequencing of the album is inspired. The tracks ebb and flow, taking you on an intriguing journey. There’s gospel, Nigerian afrobeat, Sufi qawwali music, racism, police violence, gun proliferation and Syrian missile strikes. (And a partridge in a pear tree…) It’s an ever shifting kaleidoscope of styles, challenges and experiences – an allegory for life itself.
It’s comfort food for you soul. Chris Martin’s voice is like a warm blanket (because if you’re not careful, it will suffocate you), protecting you from the troubled state of world affairs. It’s a commentary about matters inside and outside our homes.
Hearing this album had me reflecting on the nature of music. My beautiful wife listened to this album just before I did and wept during it. (I wept too, for a different reason.) “Daddy” took her on a very personal journey, linked to a recent family tragedy. This is the power of music in general and the music of Coldplay in particular. Coldplay fans are passionate about this music. The link it to the experiences that they have been present for during Coldplay concerts, where light, visual effects and technowizardry augment the experience exponentially. The connection of Coldplay fans to the music is remarkable.
I didn’t have any moments of foot tapping or fist pumping – this is different. It’s visceral, ethereal and calm. People love the tranquility of this music, with the occasional challenge during it. (I suppose you’re going to save some whales now…)