Coldplay has, in some ways, always been chasing one truly great album. It’s something even Chris Martin can’t help but admit. He’s always saying that the next will be their best, but nothing since the days of Yellow or A Rush Of Blood To The Head has come even faintly close. Still, Coldplay’s music has become a home for so many of us, a home that we climb into like a cave – it’s the sheltering warmth of their sound that they hinge so successfully on.
Their eighth studio record Everyday Life is yet another rendition of that. “It’s all about just being human,” says Martin, “a reaction to the perceived negativity that’s everywhere, just trying to make sense of things, saying what we feel and what we see.” That reaction is an overwhelmingly indulgent one – a kind of scarce experimentation that takes us right into Martin’s musical mind.
There’s an effortless harmonic construct across the entire record and is the strongest since their debut, backed by the undeniable melancholy of Chris Martin’s voice. However, there’s a contemporary touch that goes back to the indulgence of it all, almost as if the liberty with which they composed allowed them to give the record an uncompromising variety that trumps any kind of genre or sectioning. Their social motive is equally as vivid, as they bring a global scope to the treatment of their production, moving powerfully between Arabic hymns, African chorus, Iranian incantation and American Gospel, and whether that’s a matter of politically correct inclusivity or a genuine spiritual longing, it’s a totally intriguing decision.
“Sunrise” plays precedent for the direction of this wandering record – deep instrumental dives that fill up the latter half of almost every track. The soaring vocals and euphoric-becoming melodies that Coldplay practically own today aren’t just bookended progressions anymore. The Arabic vocalizing by Norah Shaqur and the Amjad Sabri samples on “Church” take Coldplay places they’ve never been before. “Arabesque” does the same, as an infatuated build-up with Fela Kuti on the sax and Martin’s ruthless strumming swoons out, while “Trouble In Town” ends on raging drum cymbals and woozy synths – it’s all a kind of uncontrolled and non-commercial indulgence that we’d expect to hear as a live extension, not a studio recording. Yet the result is the album’s most authentic success. Maybe it comes from the band’s decision to stop touring until they can find a way of reducing their carbon emissions by 100%, a kind of live preservation if you will, and a genuine reflection of their concern.
It’s a concern that permeates the record, and it’s a sensitive touch of acknowledgment. Acknowledgment of a greater world with greater suffering than what’s in Coldplay’s four walls and the music believes that too. The West African guitar believes it (“Èkó”), the Honduran sampling of a man’s dream to build his own helicopter believes it (“When I Need A Friend”), and the beautiful familiarity of “بنی آدم” believes it most of all. There’s a stream of consciousness across this record that’s deeply personal, embracing anything that comes, quite like Martin hopes the world can do outside of the music.
But when we get to the deliberate production, the made out singles, the band falls back into their recent bad habits – the baseless lyricism, the party melodies – everything about Coldplay seems to crumble in the space of three minutes. “I wanna know when I can go back and get drunk with my friends?” (“Orphans”) is not the empathetic voice of a global awareness, it’s a cowardly compromise for the sake of money-making commercialism.
Listening to REM’s “Everybody Hurts” might strike up an uncanny lyrical resemblance with album closer “Everyday Life” (“everyone hurts, everyone cries”). But it will also make strikingly clear the problem with Everyday Life. You listen to REM and you feel it in every part of yourself, a complete and utter hit of honest songwriting. In comparison, Coldplay’s ‘version’ just doesn’t dive deep enough. There’s something holding it back, something of their debut sensitivity that’s lost, and in the reinvention, they display more so than anything else, a lack of ability to perfect what it is they’re truly good at. Taken in the context of seven other Coldplay albums, Everyday Life is only a small step towards that elusive best. A step forward, nevertheless.