Coldplay – Everyday Life
- David Pollock
- 30 November 2019
Chris Martin and co. take on themes of politics, climate change, racism and more on their eighth studio album
Spread across a double album which reveals itself to be essentially two discrete albums (named Sunrise and Sunset, respectively), launched with a sunrise show broadcast to the world from Amman in Jordan, and trailed by the – extremely laudable – decision to discontinue touring until a more environmentally sustainable means of doing so can be achieved, Coldplay's eighth album has arrived with all the gravitas of a personal state-of-the-world address.
If that's what this is, however, it will have to be accompanied by an increase in the band's own personal currency as interlocutors of their times; for, amid a roster of artists who have managed to marry mountainous global popularity with a cannily era-defining edge, Coldplay have a way to go before they're U2, let alone Bob Dylan, David Bowie or Joni Mitchell. In fact, that's been their great skill across the years – marrying affirmative anthemic might to lyrics which do, and often mean, very little.
The above is a well-established template which feeds directly into Everyday Life, an album which follows the tradition of all the great double albums – The White Album and Exile On Main Street included – in leaving you thinking it would have been a far better single record. Although the band's creative mojo must be working hard if they've been able to include all these extras, so we might as well take them if they're going. Among these songs it's the overtly politicised pieces which work least convincingly, particularly the ones where Chris Martin appears to have taken the struggles of modern America upon his own shoulders.
'They hung my brother brown … their system just keep you down,' sings Martin on the languid 'Trouble in Town', taking the burden of working class and particularly black America on all by himself, although the song's dramatic orchestral coda is more in keeping with what's best about this album, while 'BrokEn' is a suitably uplifting gospel spiritual which, along with the Woody Guthrie-esque lo-fi acoustic strumalong 'WOTW/POTP' ('Wonder of the World/Power of the People'), takes a tourist's eye view of American musical heritage.
In the similarly acoustic 'Guns', an uncharacteristically – and fairly unsuited – strident political tone is taken, although the soaring chorus line 'Everyone's gone fucking crazy / maybe I'm crazy too' does stick in the mind. 'Eko', meanwhile, is one of the more effective political tracks, a lullabyish tale of a young Nigerian climate migrant who dreams of home. In tone and storytelling cohesion it works better than those others mentioned, with the sense that Martin is trying to build empathy with his character rather than place himself within their experience.
Amid all of these laudable attempts to speak for the oppressed, it's the most Coldplayish moments on this record which will undoubtedly prove most enduring; the tuneful and joyously nondescript affirmation to friend, lover or God 'Church'; the delicate, off-the-shelf ballads in tribute to their titular subjects 'Daddy' and 'Old Friends'; and the rousing contemporary pop of 'Orphans', with a chorus of 'I wanna know when I can go / back and get drunk with my friends' that speaks to the innocence of more youthful, less wise times.
In the orchestral, Arabic-flavoured instrumental 'Sunrise', the blasting African horns (played by Femi Kuti and his band) of the convincingly internationalist 'Arabesque', and the melodic ambient balladry of بنی آدم (named after the Persian poet Saadi's 'Bani Adam', which is sampled in the piece alongside Alice Coltrane's voice), a thematic link is also made between the heritage of the United States and the Middle East, which represents a noble musical endeavour.
If that endeavour is not always successful, then it's the eastern rather than the western experiments which excite and convince more. There's much here, however, to please fans and to keep Coldplay on their perch – and of course, the songwriting credit and snippet of Owl John's 'Los Angeles, Be Kind' in 'Champion of the World' is an unimpeachable gesture which keeps Scott Hutchison's legacy alive and makes for one of the record's more enduring songs.
Everyday Life by Coldplay is out now on Parlophone.