Touted as a double album but more of a two-parter similar to the band’s third album, X&Y; Everyday Life sees Chris, Will, Jonny and Guy return to their roots through the lens of all they’ve done since.
There are two ways to view this record. One is as a jumbled mix of musical pastiches stitched together to form a notional narrative on one disc. The other way is as the most creatively innovative content from the band in over a decade.
These views are not necessarily mutually exclusive but given the concept description given by the band, I’m inclined to side with the latter view and take the choppy stylistic leaps as an intentional part of that vision.
A quick note on the album art: the band featured there is Jonny Buckland’s great grandfather’s band with Coldplay photoshopped in. It’s the first time the band have appeared on their album artwork since the back cover of Parachutes.
Eschewing the bulk of the grandiose, stadium-filling, bombastic musical elements of the last few albums this edition feels leaner and more innovative. The band have also taken a social observation approach in the lyrics and themes. One has to give Chris Martin a Bono style pass on the coherence and effectiveness on the lyrics. It has never been his strong suit and while sometimes they hit a home run, as they do on the heartbreaking, sombre yet loving Daddy, they more often say nothing or miss the mark entirely. Police brutality, refugees and the ridiculous attitude towards guns of the American nation also feature throughout the record.
Overall the album is one of the more creatively accomplished in their discography. It is too easy for people to sling at Coldplay but there is creativity behind their output – if not always originality. Everyday Life toes the line between a haphazard collage of random ideas and a coherent collection of vistas into the dynamic and varied nature of life and music.
Having now lived with the album a little while my view of the album has only become more positive. There are aspects of all their best work present in this album – as well as hints at the less successful or more embarrassing parts but these are dialled down or reigned in so land well like they didn’t before. I’m thinking particularly of the spoken word samples used on Head Full of Dreams that jarred with the rest of the album or made no sense compared to the police discussion here on Trouble in Town, and the musical/spoken word mash-up of Badi Adam. Even the frivolous rough-cut gets a better treatment here on WOTW/POTP (see Death will Never Conquer and The Goldrush as examples of it missing the mark previously)
Arabesque, once you get beyond the name is one of the most exhilarating, lush and well-constructed tracks the band has ever released. With no creative constraints evident, it comes in several distinct phases all underpinned by a driving Middle-East inspired rhythm that you can’t help but dance a bit too. The final phase explodes into a dramatic soundscape with Chris calling “same fucking blood” over it. Underlining the theme of the song, that we are all the same in the end.
Elsewhere gospel harmonies appear on the cheerful BrokEn, and a more restrained but beautiful cathedral choir vocal on When I Need a Friend, the bluesy Cry Cry Cry and the transitional Badi Adam show the diversity of sounds they are seeking to use, presumably to reflect the many different walks of like people around the world live.
Elsewhere, highlights include the snark and British sarcasm of Guns, a direct attack on the wilful disregard for evidence and logic of potential responses to mass shootings in America in order to preserve an out-dated constitutional amendment. Whereas Church has a stunning vocal line from the beautiful voice of Norah Shaqur which has the ability to transport you to some idealised Arabian vista. Luckily the live version below brings it front and centre.
Which brings us to the touring of this album. Coldplay decided in their sycophantically magnanimous style to not tour until they could make it carbon neutral or even positive for the environment. Given the current situation, any tour they had done would have been cut short anyway. So they had a limited set of shows – ironically in 3 different countries in one week that could only be reached by plane. Still, less than a full tour. It also means the shows are online.
On album launch day they performed two shows performing each half of the record at their titular times of day and broadcasting on YouTube from the rooftops of Jordan. It makes for one of the most captivating and oddly calming concert films you are likely to see as you see the sun rise and fall over the city. this was followed by a charity show at London’s Natural History Museum, a session for Radio 1 and a show in LA.
Also on the second half, Orphans is the only hint of the bombast and stadium grandiosity that we have become bored of from the band. But with the refugee theme and the fact you haven’t just listened to 25 minutes of the same, it is oddly welcome – and damn that vocal is catchy! At the end of the record, the final two-track are more traditional Coldplay than the rest of the record, in a Parachutes / Rush of Blood way where it seems the experience since that era has been condensed to create a refined version of that sound.
With another ‘more commercial’ album hinted at for this year too, it will not be long until they are filling the airwaves with their by-now signature sound. Until then I will take sweet refuge in an album that is more demonstrative of the band I fell for nearly 20 years ago and their most dynamic, interesting, creative and challenging work since Viva La Vida. You don’t listen to Coldplay to be challenged but it would be nice if they stuck to their ‘experimental’ side a little more. At this point they can do what they want though and if they prefer to be fitting the U2 mould rather than the Radiohead one – so be it.