BY KYLIE YEATMAN
Filling the last 10 years of their career with attempts at bombastic, anthemic songs about skies full of stars and strange combinations of EDM and easy listening, Coldplay seems to have fallen from the songwriting grace and haunting balladry that made them legendary in the first decade of the 2000s. On “Everyday Life,” the group isn’t so willing to put beat drops ahead of sentiment, but is it enough to gain back their early credibility?
Coldplay doesn’t seem to have any desire to be the balladeers that their 2000 debut “Parachute” painted them as, and while they’ve only been getting bigger since then, “Everyday Life” is a return to form in appearance alone—those gentle riffs and warm backings are certainly reminiscent of their debut, but ultimately still a far cry from it. There’s an attempt by the group to take on America’s political unrest, as with the interpolation of police harassment on “Trouble in Town” and the lyrics “And I get no shelter / And I get no peace / And I just get more police.”
But, really, are Coldplay the band we’re turning to for our political commentary these days? Songs like “Church” go about as hard as any random Hootie & the Blowfish track, which they try to hide behind some bass-boosting and turned-up guitars to no avail. Maybe Coldplay has no interest in being the adult contemporary standard that they’ve become, and, sure, they’re doing a hell of a lot better than fellow AC staple Maroon 5, but who isn’t these days?
“Broken” sees Chris Martin accompanied by some snapping and a choir, but, honestly, that just feels like cheating because choirs on rock songs always sound cool. If there’s one thing that doesn’t, it’s Martin himself, whose soft vocals don’t lend themselves to the performance.
That’s not to say there aren’t still some solid moments on the album, where Coldplay sound the most like themselves they have since around 2008. “Arabesque,” a six-minute romp that mingles some kicking alto saxophone with a solid bassline, is easily the best thing they’ve done all decade: Instead of focusing all of their effort on trying to sound “epic” and coming out limp, the group allows the music to speak for itself.
Similarly, “Champion of the World” goes for the type of lighter-waving, stadium-rocking grandiose of a much stronger band, but the focus is ultimately muddled. At their best, like on “Èkó,” the depth and bombast isn’t forced, and they’re a much tighter group for it. “Arabesque” provides a glimpse of what may be the group’s future, but then “When I Need a Friend” comes crashing down to remind us that for every one decent Coldplay album track, three limp tracks must follow.
Divided into two unique sections, the album as a whole feels weaker than its parts. “Sunlight,” the album’s first half, plays to Coldplay’s earlier strengths to mixed results, with inklings of experimentalism that sometimes feel out of place for a band not typically associated with taking musical risks. Even tracks like “Orphans,” which features a robust choir and Martin’s strongest vocal performance on the album, feels a little too grand for the group, as though they were a toddler in their father’s clothes.
For its imperfections, “Everyday Life” is still the best Coldplay album in a good decade and does make a pretty good soundtrack for a drive along the coast.