A mix of bad and good dreams
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