Album of the Week: Coldplay, 'Everyday Life'

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Coldplay, 'Everyday Life'
Coldplay, 'Everyday Life' (Parlophone)

I've always thought Chris Martin is a really nice guy, especially for someone who has spent half his life as a rockstar, and a third of it married to a Hollywood A-list actress. He seems like a guy you'd call and invite out to the bar to share some news about your life, and he'd put his arm around you, and buy you a beer and tell you it's gonna get better. And mean it. Unlike say, Thom Yorke, who I imagine would lecture you about the history of Marxism in China, when what you really need is a hug. But sometimes when it comes to making awesome rock and roll, we don't want a hug. And maybe at this point, Chris Martin is realizing that too.

Let's get out the facts: Everyday Life is the new album from Coldplay. It's their eighth studio record dating back to their 2000 debut Parachutes. It's a double album — the first half, Sunrise, second half Sunset. Coldplay played SNL and shows in Jordan and London's Natural History Museum to celebrate the album's release, but have announced they will not play a world tour to promote the album until they address concerns regarding travel and the environmental impact of playing gigs around the world. The reviews of the album by critics have generally referred to it as their most experimental album. And it is.

Surrounding a few tunes of what you'd expect from Coldplay (shimmering and soaring, the songs you can imagine a hockey arena swaying to, like "Champion of the World"), the band goes sonic off-roading, into folk instrumentals ("Sunrise"), beautiful ballads ("Daddy"), Gospel ("BrokEn"), African-inspired grooves sung in French ("Arabesque"), soul shouters ("Cry Cry Cry"), Dylan-ish political blues protests ("Guns"), songs with lush orchestrations ("Everyday Life"), a home demo ("WOTW/POTP"), and a roomful of kid's singing woo-woos, including Martin's Apple and Max ("Orphans"). Also, Chris Martin swears a lot on the record. That seems weird.

So what's we've got is a sprawling mess — which is both the charm and distraction of Everyday Life (a ha — maybe that's the point!). Since their second album A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay albums have gone down too easy, too smooth, with vaguely uplifting lyrics accompanying music that feels on-point for whatever vibe is du jour — the U2 epic rock grandeur on X&Y, 'we're working with Eno' of Viva La Vida and Mylo Xyloto, and the increasingly pop leanings of Ghost Stories and A Head Full of Dreams. For many people this decade, Coldplay had turned into music you could play with your parents around. But this one, it's — different. I'm immersed as I listen, thinking about what's going on here. Is there a method to the divergent sounds, or is it a series of semi-successful genre experiments tossed together across two albums like sonic splattering? I'm drawn in to find out. And those highlights are really great — "Daddy" is a reflection on parenting that can hang with Brandi Carlile's "Mother," while gospel hymn "BrokEn" is surprisingly effective; groovy "Arabesque" blends in its African influence nicely, "Cry Cry Cry" has a sparse soul sound — and it makes those diversions the most interesting moments on the album.

Chris Martin also sings on the new Beck album Hyperspace, where we hear another middle age rocker coming to terms with making art out of a normal-core existence, but with less experimentation than Coldplay. (Imagine that!). And while I'm not ready to say this one will go down like other brilliant sprawling messes in rock history (The White Album anyone?), when they wind up the Coldplay Anthem Machine to bring it home on "Champions of the World" you suddenly realize that maybe this will be a record where Coldplay shows us what they have to offer about music, our world, and well, our Everyday Life.

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  • Program Director Jim McGuinn with Coldplay
    Program Director Jim McGuinn with Coldplay (Courtesy of Jim McGuinn)