Coldplay- Everyday Life Review

Coldplay has spent the 21st century thus far chiselling themselves into one of those bands that people love or severely hate. Their piercing originality is lauded on one end, their mildness and milquetoast-ness derided on the other. Nevertheless, their success is undeniable with over 100 million records sold internationally and a string of hits behind them of the likes of “Viva La Vida”, “Yellow” and “Fix You.” Their latest release, Everyday Life has hardly been a seller thus far even in comparison to its predecessor A Head Full Of Dreams, but it’s the sonic substance that ultimately counts.

The 16-track LP is a more experimental record after four years away from the studio and, while not christened as a double album consists of a Sunrise and Sunset side. The naming is musically appropriate: “Sunrise”, the first track of the record is a short, symphonic instrumental piece that through its orchestration vividly evokes the image of a glaring red morning sun poking out over the horizon of London town and filling the streets. The ethereal, U2-esque “Church” is a healthy shot of standard Coldplay flavour, relatively intact and relevant after nearly 20 years. “Trouble In Town” cracks open a political element in the album by addressing police brutality, a topic that has been familiar to Chris Martin for at least three years now: “Blood on the beat, oh my goodness, there’s blood on the beat”.

The African-esque rhythms are especially fitting for the subject matter, holding the track in a state of restrained tension before bursting forward during the ending clip of a real-life hostile interaction between a black man and a police officer. The clip, along with the song’s lyrical content and compounding dynamic make “Trouble” strongly reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City”, a track which dealt with similar complaints of institutional discrimination and, in an infamous skit, depicted a black man being set up, harassed, arrested and thrown in jail.

Trailing appropriately off of “Trouble”’s socially conscious themes, “BrokEn” is a quick and righteous interlude featuring Mr. Martin singing gospel with a black church choir, solidifying his support for the cause against profiling and police killings beyond insinuation. “Daddy” mellows out and speaks of the loneliness and distance between child and father and sailing unsure waters to recover connection (as evidenced by its wave-riding music video), while “WOTW/POTP” is a grainy guitar bridge with the production quality of an iPhone laid up against a coconut on an oceanside beach. Perhaps it was meant to be a more personable, down-to-earth moment on the record, but the short interlude takes away more than it gives from the record overall- thankfully it jettisons quickly into the fittingly-named, “Arabesque”, which mixes Eastern musical sentiments in with Western jazz horns to mould together a call for universal humanity.

The choice of an Arabic musical base for the song could be a choice of experimentation, or by some possibility an implicit gesture towards Donald Trump over his travel ban and immigration policies- regardless of the intention, the inaugural use of profanity in Coldplay’s entire career by faintly declaring we are all the “same fucking blood” in the background comes off viscerally out of character for a band that established itself making some of the safest music imaginable from the 2000s up to now. Closing out the Sunrise side, “When I Need A Friend” sees Martin and co. hitch a caravan back to the Occident with the help of a chamber choir and the spirit of Josh Groban to compel them. Shifting from the AME South to an Eastern bazaar back to Westminster Abbey within one side of the record demonstrates, on one hand, the universalism Martin is trying to advocate and on the other, his own struggle in faith to find out what God actually constitutes– whether it be he, she or everything. Lyrical speculations aside, it’s a glorious curtain call for Act One.

The Sunset side begins, and the politics re-emerge: “Guns” swipes and satires the rightward stance on gun control after multiple mass shootings in the U.S have made the debate inescapable. Musically, it’s reminiscent of many of the folk protest songs of the 1960s, however the I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Get-Shot Rag falls short of making Coldplay any more convincing despite their long history of activism in other issues. “Orphans”, or follows close behind in its international grooves, and depending on what time of the day one catches Chris Martin and talks to him details either personal and shared experiences between people or the experiences of Third-World defectors in refugee camps. It’s the lyrical ambiguity of songs like “Orphans”, better titled “Sympathy For The Migrant” for its woo-woo chorus that, instead of earning praise has garnered Everyday Life criticism for being too vague. If the expectation for an explicit, hardline stance is set for the band in regards to the sociopolitical landscape, it could be an interesting and taxing precedent for Coldplay to live up to in the future.

Onwards: “Eko” provides a pleasant tale of an adventurer making his way to Lagos, Nigeria on a “beam of light”, invoking images of African plains and sands with a crystal-clear religious tinge. “Cry Cry Cry” rewinds back to old 45-inch soul after dwelling in all things 2019 for much of the album thus far, invoking the spirits of Janis Joplin and Garnett Mimms with the help of a crackling record player. “Old Friends” pays tribute to a literal old friend of Martin’s named Tony who apparently saved his life- the details of this incident are unknown, but the soothing, plucking acoustic guitar is at least nice to listen to. Further emphasizing the album’s Arabian influence is “Children Of Adam”, stylized in Arabic on the tracklist, one half solitary piano and one half prose, poetry and chorale. The name of the track comes from a poem called Bani Adam by an Iranian poet named Saadi Shirazi, read aloud by one Dr. Shazrad Sami- stating from the opening line that “Human beings are members of a whole.”

Leading in from “Children”, “Champion Of The World” turns its focus from the outer world towards the inner: Chris Martin gives an uplifting recount of the personal growth, fearlessness and continuing achievement he has experienced in his own life, describing it as “Flying on my bicycle/heading out from the Earth/jumping with my parachute/out into the universe.” For the album closer, the final sunset so to speak, “Everyday Life” cycles back to clear-cut Coldplay after a marathon of experimentation and risks. Martin, well-tailored for the finale asks the listener “what kind of world do you want it to be?” If you have an answer, it is implied, then dammit, start creating it today, and know you have a brother or two along the way and across the world to help you. It’s an ending that fully encapsulates the spectrum of human experience and the overall message of the album- however, Martin’s Hallelujah chant at the ending before the song abruptly drops away invokes a tone of cheesy, cliched global pacifism that may turn off some otherwise persuaded souls. One thing out of a few on this fairly intriguing record that could have been done without.

Everyday Life runs the line of embodying standard, recognizable Coldplay and a new Coldplay that aims to be more aggressive, more daring and outspoken musically and socially as the state of the world demands. There is plenty good that can be said about the record; namely, its sweeping breadth of international elements mixed into an eclectic, worldly stew and the band’s strong rootedness in its identity to balance off the cosmopolitan venturings Everyday embarks on. Praise aside, numerous aspects of Coldplay’s political commentary on this record, including the few swears used for extra emphasis come off try-hard and disingenuous. Having an opinion on current affairs is fine and dandy- it becomes problematic, to use a term, when there is a schism between the identity a performer has personally and musically to the world and a new character he attempts to take on for additional effect. With this in mind, along with the length of the record and the questionable need for numerous interludes, the fairest verdict to give is that Coldplay should be free to do them, experiment and speak up but not get too out of hand doing it. As proclaimed ambassadors for the world, they should know that the world dies on the vine for authenticity now more than ever.

RATING: 4/5