Review Summary: It may not be much of a double concept album, but Everyday Life is still the best Coldplay has sounded in over a decade.
Coldplay went off the deep end in 2011, throwing all things histrionic against the wall to see what stuck during the confetti explosion that was Mylo Xyloto
. Featuring memorable cuts such as ‘Paradise’, ‘Charlie Brown’, and ‘Princess of China’, the peaks were exciting enough to overshadow the album’s obvious shortcomings and inconsistencies. The same could not be said of 2015’s A Head Full of Dreams
, which flaunted a similar level of bombast sans any of the quality content. Needless to say, no one had much reason to expect great things from Everyday Life
, a highly touted “double album” that is really just one normal length release cut in half. When Coldplay started hyping the experimentalism of their own work, red flags were also raised, but it wasn’t until the record officially dropped that the most unexpected truth of all surfaced: Coldplay actually wasn’t lying
. For the first time in over a decade, the band has thrown caution to the wind – and the results are far superior to anything they’ve done since Viva La Vida
Even the most optimistic fan most likely wouldn’t have seen this coming, especially something as stirring as ‘Trouble In Town’ – a Parachutes
-esque ballad that rapidly devolves into chaos like we’ve rarely, if ever, heard from Coldplay. Electric guitar chords subtly signal the build-up towards something finally
more meaningful than the surface-level pleasantries of Mylo Xyloto
/A Head Full of Dreams
, and we get it in this angry, gnarled view of urban life that features an audio clip of a police brutality incident from Philadelphia in 2013. As the intensity of this altercation ramps up, a synth wall drops sharply, as if to simulate that pit you get in your stomach when you’re about to witness something dreadful happen to a fellow human being. Coldplay further perverts the aura of the song by throwing in chants from a Zulu children’s choir to score the background of the hatred-fueled dialogue, and it feels like we’ve suddenly landed somewhere within Pink Floyd’s The Wall
. ‘Trouble In Town’ makes you feel like a guilty bystander who isn’t doing enough to intervene; it’s a level of discomfort you don’t expect from a Coldplay song, but it’s also the moment that Everyday Life
establishes itself as so much more than your ordinary, cookie-cutter Coldplay outing.
The group’s eighth LP draws its strength from a renewed interest in testing its outer limits. ‘Arabesque’ marks another major departure from the norm; clocking in just shy of six minutes with lyrics in French and a full-blown saxophone solo which spans the entire midsection, the track builds to an emotional pinnacle where Chris Martin shouts, in angry repetition, “we share the same blood…same fucking blood!” Prior to Everyday Life
, nobody would have pegged Coldplay as a band that might weave funk or jazz into their fabric, or have a chilling crescendo of any sort, but all of this occurs on ‘Arabesque’ and the results are shockingly strong. Elsewhere, Coldplay continues to challenge its own status quo in various ways: ‘BrokEn’ dabbles in gospel, ‘Cry Cry Cry’ borders on retro-soul, and ‘بني آدم’ samples the famous Saadi poem Son of Adam/Bani Adam
atop elegant, breathtaking classical piano notes. There’s an enlightened air emanating from Everyday Life
that sees them embracing creative freedom like they haven’t done since Viva La Vida
or Prospekt’s March
, and it’s reason for excitement – especially among fans who didn’t necessarily love the direction that they’ve taken of late.
Structurally, Everyday Life
is supposedly divided into an experimental disc (Sunrise
) and more of a mainstream pop collection (Sunset
). On Sunrise
– the “experimental” half – we get a fairly standard Coldplay song by all measures via ‘Church’, and – ironically – a pretty standard church hymnal by way of ‘When I Need a Friend’, which also sounds derivative of the Christian hymn ‘Holy Holy Holy.’ On Sunset
– the distinctly “not experimental” disc, we witness a foray into 1960s-reminiscent soul-pop (‘Cry Cry Cry’), the unexpected acoustic rhythms of the anti-arms protest song ‘Guns’, and the aforementioned poetry of ‘بني آدم’. While the album’s two strongest moments of experimentation do
indeed both occur on the first disc (‘Trouble In Town’, ‘Arabesque’), the experience otherwise blurs together without any real consequence. That isn’t meant to imply that the songs all sound similar, but merely that the experimental vs. traditional
aspects of the music are not as clearly defined as the band alleged. All of this is to say that little stock need be invested in the record’s thematic intentions, because no matter how you order the tracks on Everyday Life
, you’re liable to get the same thing out of the experience. Both Sunrise
have their share of intriguing departures and comfortably at-home Coldplay songs, making for an even listen across the board – even if it means that the whole “double concept album” hype was drummed up for nothing.
For as much as ‘Trouble In Town’ and ‘Arabesque’ see Coldplay triumph over new territory, there are still plenty of instances that anchor Everyday Life
to familiarity – and some of them are even clear highlights. One track that is a marvelous success simply by recalling old-school Coldplay is ‘Daddy’ – a heartbreaking piano ballad that sounds like it was ripped straight from the X&Y
sessions – which sports lyrics about a son and his estranged father who moved away: “Daddy, why'd you run away? / Daddy, are you okay? / Look, Dad, we got the same hair, and Daddy, it's my birthday.” The naivety and simplicity of the outlook provided by the son makes it seem like it’s being told from an abandoned child’s perspective, adding hefty emotional weight to the atmosphere. ‘Orphans’ is a song with huge hooks that fall right into Coldplay’s wheelhouse, easily separating itself as the catchiest standalone single since ‘Paradise.’ ‘Champion of the World’ begins as a relatively straightforward mid-tempo pop rock song but culminates in a chorus that aspires to Queen/Beach Boys levels of grandiosity (“I'm flying on my bicycle, heading upwards from the Earth / I am jumping with no parachute, out into the universe”). It works better here than similar moments did on Mylo Xyloto
or A Head Full of Dreams
because the melodic sugar rush feels earned. Regardless, it’s big time theatrical Coldplay at its best.
As a sixteen track experience, Everyday Life
rarely falters – but when it does, it tends to come in the form of fluff pieces that seem to be inherently prevalent in highly conceptual pieces such as this. ‘WOTW/POTP’ is nothing more than a sparse acoustic interlude with songbirds in the background. ‘Èkó’ is beautiful from an aesthetic standpoint, but rings a bit hollow in terms of lyrical or instrumental substance – almost a Bon Iver i,i
moment. While these brief, interlude-esque tracks are sprinkled throughout Everyday Life
, there’s still a very solid twelve-to-thirteen song foundation in place – which is further evidence that this whole thing never needed to be forced into “double album” duty in the first place…but hey, if that’s what it takes to get Coldplay’s creative juices flowing again, then it’s worth the cost. After all, this is easily the best thing that Coldplay has composed since Viva La Vida
, and it serves as the proper successor to that magnum opus. Everyday Life
is a wholly engaging blend of creative, forward-thinking Coldplay and no-frills, fun
Coldplay. While every opportunity isn’t fully capitalized upon (rarely does Coldplay match the tension of ‘Trouble In Town’ or expand upon the message portrayed in ‘Arabesque’), it still avoids the pitfalls of its most immediate predecessors. Everyday Life
is bold and exudes confidence, and it never wanders into long, forgettable stretches the way that both Ghost Stories
and A Head Full of Dreams
did. One has to wonder: if they followed up Viva La Vida
with this album, would we be talking about them as one of the best? Everyday Life
certainly shatters the illusion that Coldplay is a boring, safe band – so if nothing else, that’s a start.