Coldplay | ARTIST
Ghost Stories | ALBUM
Parlophone Records | LABEL
16 May 2014 | RELEASE DATE
5.1 | 10
For the majority of the 2000s, Coldplay has served as the closest thing this generation has to an arena-rock band. Sure, there’s still The Killers, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Muse, and Mumford & Sons, but Coldplay has at least appeared ahead of their peers for quite some time. But with their latest, the dreary, largely difficult Ghost Stories, the band appear to be a shell of their former selves.
While “Midnight” was a refreshing change of pace for a band that reached their saturation point with Mylo Xyloto’s Rihanna-featuring “Princess of China”, it always felt like an outlier. No one in their right mind would think Chris Martin would go full Justin Vernon on us for a solid 40 minutes. What fills the majority of Ghost Stories, then, are somber, MOR mid-tempo tracks masked as Coldplay going back to basics, back to Parachutes. While that is certainly the best narrative to frame Stories, it doesn’t necessarily represent the album truthfully. Coldplay have delivered some of the most memorable ballads in recent memory, from “The Scientist” to “Fix You” to “Strawberry Swing”, yet the songs that comprise Stories are no where near as memorable, and are more similar to the forgettable back half of X&Y than the moments that carried weight. When Avicii shows up to funnel in a manufactured beat on the soon-to-be-inescapable “A Sky Full of Stars,” the best thing that can be said is that it doesn’t sound anything like his reprehensible smash singles “Wake Me Up” or “Hey Brother”. So I’ll just leave it at that.
But Coldplay is still capable of crafting some beautiful moments, such as the closing “O”, as the song’s closing minutes wonderfully mirror the opening moments of first track “Always in My Head,” hinting at the cyclical nature the closing track’s title could also imply. On “Magic,” Martin repeatedly assures us (and himself) that he stills believes in magic (i.e. love). But on an album as lifeless as Ghost Stories, Martin is unable to make a very convincing case that magic does exist. There’s no doubt this is the album Martin needed to make; but it’s more than a little unnerving that this collection feels like journal entries never meant to be made into something the public could consume. Much like ghosts, it’s hard to know whether this even exists.