A mix of bad and good dreams

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

Whip­ping boys for those peo­ple who con­sider them the epit­ome of ill-con­sid­ered, va­pid rock mu­sic, Cold­play may not tick many boxes for fans of Grimes or Chvrches.

A Head Full of Dreams ar­rives just over a year af­ter singer Chris Martin’s mar­riage break-up al­bum Ghost Sto­ries and wouldn’t you know but rock mu­sic’s nicest front­man has in­vited not just his cur­rent part­ner to sing on the al­bum but also his ex-wife (Gwyneth Pal­trow) and all the band mem­ber’s chil­dren. Added to this list are ap­pear­ances from Bey­oncé, Noel Gal­lagher, Tove Lo, and even a vo­cal sam­ple of US pres­i­dent Barack Obama singing Amaz­ing Grace.

It’s really all too much – or it would be if it weren’t for the fact that, typ­i­cally, some of the songs are very good (we’ll get to th­ese soon). Quite a few aren’t, of course, and the rea­sons for this are that the strengths that make Cold­play good (think­ing very se­ri­ously about Big Top­ics, be­ing unashamedly emo­tional) are also weak­nesses that make Cold­play very weak, in­deed. It’s all about the bal­ance, isn’t it?

A par­tic­u­larly poor song is closer, Up & Up, a kind of bed­sit sing-along trans­ferred to an arena-sized stage with back­ing vo­cals by Bey­oncé and Brian Eno, and a gui­tar solo by Noel Gal­lagher. An­other low point is feel-good break-up bal­lad, Ever­glow (fea­tur­ing Pal­trow on back­ing vo­cals), which wrings out all man­ner of emo­tion with­out nail­ing any mean­ing. Sim­i­larly, the disco-house en­abled Ad­ven­ture of a Life­time – a damp squib when it could have been the prover­bial cracker.

The good songs in­clude the rather lovely Hymn for the Week­end (which fea­tures Martin and Bey­oncé trade lyrics over glint­ing pi­ano) and Fun (which fea­tures Tove Lo, and which is as eye-brim­ming a tune as you’ll hear out­side the new Adele al­bum). Equal parts life­less and lofty, heart-wrench­ing and emo­tion­ally guilt-free – the shaky count­down to a Cold­play Christ­mas starts here. cold­play.com

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