A Head Full of Dreams Coldplay Parlophone/Warner
One might have thought that after the excruciating purge of all things Gwyneth on Coldplay’s last outing, the hugely disappointing Ghost Stories, singer Chris Martin and Ms Paltrow would remain uncoupled on its follow-up, the somewhat chirpier A Head Full of Dreams. Yet here, on track four, the vaguely Celtic ballad Everglow, Paltrow lends her voice and her lyric — “How come things move on / How come cars don’t slow” — in barely discernible fashion on a song that suggests love will not tear the couple apart completely. Elsewhere, mostly, Martin is in buoyant mood. The opening title track has all of the Coldplay characteristics set to 11 — piano bed, Edge-like guitar and Martin whooping up a storm on an anthemic chorus designed to light up 50,000 wristbands in stadiums around the world. Coldplay didn’t tour on the back of Ghost Stories, but the band appears to be primed again for global saturation with this album. Certainly there are a few typically grandiose pop anthems to add to its live armoury on A Head Full of Dreams. The most notable of these is the current single Adventure of a Lifetime, a delicious, bouncy pop song driven by a funky bassline and Jonny Buckland’s insistent, noodly West African guitar motif. Buckland’s signature guitar harmonics were largely absent from Martin’s miserable outpourings on Ghost Stories. Here they return in abundance, not least on Birds, an up-tempo melange of Guy Berryman’s sturdy bass, Buckland’s swirling atmospherics and Martin doing his aching falsetto in the chorus. It also has a passing resemblance to Is This How You Feel? by the Preatures. A Head Full of Dreams was produced by Rik Simpson ( Ghost Stories, Mylo Xyloto) and Norwegian duo Stargate (Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen), who don’t tamper too much with the familiar template. There are some surprising guest appearances, not least President Barack Obama. Part of his speech at the funeral of Charleston shooting victim Clementa C. Pinckney form the basis of two short tracks, Kaleidoscope and Colour Spectrum, although it’s hard to fathom how these sit in the context of the album. Also lending her voice is Beyonce, who joins Martin on the funky Hymn for the Weekend, while Noel Gallagher lends his guitar chops to the optimistic Up & Up. The mid-paced Fun, featuring Swedish singer Tove Lo, is forlorn, even with one of the Martin hands-in-the-air “woo-hoo” moments.
While A Head Full of Dreams has set Coldplay back on course after the folly of its predecessor, it doesn’t do quite enough to reestablish the band as the champions of melodic pop-rock they once were.