Album Review – A Head Full Of Dreams / Coldplay

AHFOD1000At this point, there’s very little to say about Coldplay anymore. They’ve been on the bandwagon of almost every musical trend in the last few years – understated R’n’b, EDM, indie-rock grandness and now we have a frankenstein combination of peppy guitar pop (think ‘Get Lucky’) and some vague rock genre in the middle of U2 and Snow Patrol. Bless Chris Martin and co. They only try to make singable pop for the masses, but are criticised at every turn they try to make in order to refresh themselves. That’s because when they step into a new skin, the genre is always long dead and Coldplay don’t have the chops to revive it. Anyway, A Head Full of Dreams is apparently their last album, but we’d take that with a pinch of salt. Coldplay are by no means Death Grips, but Chris Martin is way too persistent just to stop now. Expect some kind of side project, solo endeavour or just another Coldplay album in the next few years.

Last years’ Ghost Stories was a critical non-success and A Head Full of Dream feels more like a return to form(?) for Coldplay. ‘Hymn For The Weekend’ aims for their ‘Princess of China’ collaboration with Rihanna, but instead we have Beyoncé, which is by no means a bad booking, but her voice is criminally underused. If you have a Beyoncé collaboration on your record, you should have a Beyoncé collaboration. Another major collaboration on the record is Noel Gallagher, who, in comparison to Beyoncé’s input, outstays his welcome with an utterly boring guitar solo at the end of ‘Up&Up’ which sounds like something he could have put on a Oasis B-side. Saying that, it could have been worse – he might have sang. The thing is, ‘Up&Up’ is one of the more memorable tracks, which speaks for the rest of the album. The track is mostly minimal for its length, from the synthetic drums, swathes of orchestration and Martin’s voice pushed to the front and centre. That memorability might be something to do with Gallagher’s extended guitar solo and the long(ish) track length at 7 minutes. By the end, it’s not so much a good memory, it’s more like you’re choking on Martin’s optimistic gospel and Gallagher’s solo.

That’s not to say the album doesn’t start well. Coldplay let their newfound optimism known from the start on the title track, which is in parts a danceable pop song and ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’s sister song. They even make room for a ‘Viva La Vida’-like ‘woah-oh’ section which feels like their leftover Arcade Fire copying making an ugly return in a pop setting. But the song mostly gets by without killing any chances that Coldplay might inject a couple of good songs into the mix. ‘Hymn For The Weekend’, though Beyoncé is criminally underused, is an interesting electro-pop song with the heavy synthetic drums that drove Beyoncé’s self titled 2013 album. It’s a moment where Coldplay do use another artist’s style well, even cribbing Beyoncé’s ‘drunk and high’ approach to make their own ode to relationships being like drugs and alcohol (though arguably Beyoncé wore it better on her album). It’s unusual that Coldplay didn’t try out this R’n’B-pop heavy style for the rest of the album, because they do it quite well. Instead what we get is Mylo Xyloto-point-2.

Why even rate Coldplay at this point? We only know that the album will sell pretty well, get a lot of complaints about them being boring and they’ll carry on regardless. Coldplay are easy bait, but that’s only because they make it so easy to criticise. Would we rather see them going back to Parachutes and the Radiohead comparisons just as that band went experimental? No, at least in their genre-hopping Coldplay have attempted to not replicate one album after the other. When they have just escaped one comparison, another lands squarely on Chris Martin’s doorstep. This time it’s ‘Get Lucky’, U2 circa Aching Baby and the Pop taste of the moment – whatever it is. We’re just looking forward to the Vapourwave/PC Music influences on their next album.


Funnel Recommends: A Head Full of Dreams / Hymn For The Weekend / Adventure of a Lifetime