Review Summary: A great new single, bogged down by a couple of mediocre tracks
The EP is largely a lost art form in the contemporary music world, though there are some signs of a slight comeback with the advent of digital-download distribution and the desire to keep a more constant stream of content, the EP as self-contained artistic statement, as opposed to a clearing-house for album outtakes or a live-release stopgap, is essentially a thing of the past. This is unfourtunate, both because the EP provides a unique outlet for ideas and musical concepts too large to be captured in a single, but perhaps not large enough to justify an entire full-length album, and because some great EPs have been created by many and varied groups over the years (Slint's untitled EP, Big Black's Headache and The Beta Band's first three EPs, to name a random three). Coldplay's new release, Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall, is unique simply for being what it is in form: a modern EP that is meant to stand as artistic work apart from any other of the band's releases, neither a set of album outtakes/remixes (as the band's earlier EP Prospekt's March was) nor a for-fans-only live set. Especially for a band as large as Coldplay, this is something not very well-known in the recent past, and could represent a chance for the EP to come back into the general public conscious, if only by virtue of the band's sheer popularity. Somewhat sadly, then, Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall, more than a cohesive EP, feels as a delivery mechanism for its title track, followed by two middling, not particularly memorable tracks.
The first missive from this EP was the title track, which initially appeared to be an independent non-album single similar to last year's “Christmas Lights”, and, taken on its own, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” is a pretty great song, which expands Coldplay's sound in interesting new directions. Despite its rather purple title, the song is actually a rather playful one, powered by a bouncy keyboard line and a liquid guitar riff that may be the most memorable use of the six-string on a Coldplay track yet. In many ways, the song can be read as a further expanding upon the ideas featured on the band's 2008 release Viva La Vida, especially after “Christmas Lights” represented a return to their stately-ballad roots. From the expanded, lushly-produced instrumentation, to the lack of piano, to the ambiguous, not explicitly romantic lyrics, including Coldplay's first semi-clever line (“I'd rather be a comma, than a full stop”), this is Coldplay as “experimental” as they can be. Further evidence of this can be seen, or rather heard, from Chris Martin singing rhythmically in a register lower than his trademark falsetto and the song's rather-odd structure, not including a proper chorus and having its melodic climax entirely at the end of the track. As a one-off missive from the mind of Martin and company, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”, ranks as one of their better singles, and that's not even taking into account its amusing, colourful music video, but, then there's the matter of the EP's other two songs.
To be fair, neither “Major Minus” nor “Moving To Mars”, the two tracks which round-out the full EP, are especially bad: both certainly sound good while they are playing and would be acceptable as album tracks on any of Coldplay's first three LPs. However, due to the fact that, this release being an EP, each track must mean more and be held to a higher standard, both of the songs can't help but feel like disappointments, particularly coming after the title track. “Major Minus” is the more risk-taking of the two, with its vaguely-country acoustic strums and underlying stuttering rhythm, and though it conjures vague interest for be willing tinker with abrupt volume drops and distort Martin's vocals, it fails to come up with a memorable melody and its semi-whistled pseudo-hook comes off more as annoying than anything else. “Moving to Mars”, on the other hand, is Coldplay in balladeer mode, with grand piano dancing lightly with percussion and acoustic guitar, though the song does contain a rather confusing semi-industrial synth pulse. It's the kind of song that the band can pull off in their sleep and the track itself seems rather tired, and without the transcendent sincerity and hooks that put over songs like “The Scientist”.
So, in the final summation, what Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall comes off as is an EP that should have stayed a single (or, ideally, been the B-Side to “Christmas Lights”), with one great song pulling along two mediocre ones. While, on the one hand, it is commendable to see Coldplay use a different format for this release, and to see them keep a steady stream of the releases coming over the past two years, it is not hard to wish that this EP had been either more carefully written and considered, or simply cut down to its best component, with the rest left on the proverbial cutting room floor.