Photo: Flickr / Sebastien Camelot

Coldplay – ‘A Head Full of Dreams’

aheadfullofdreamsNothing beats the sight of a sweat-stained Chris Martin hunched over a piano, yelling an anthemic chorus into a microphone with thousands of glo stick wielding concert-goers singing along. In fact, for the better part of the last decade and half, that’s the image that we’ve most commonly come to associate with British superband Coldplay. Most of us refuse to acknowledge the fact they’ve moved on from the days of haunting choruses of ‘Fix You’ under strobe lights into a world of experimental, electro dancefloor fillers. Their new album, A Head Full of Dreams, is their latest foray into the world of upbeat, toe-tapping numbers; an adventurous LP that sees Martin and co produce moments of magic that are, frustratingly, all too infrequent.

Many of us are still shivering at the thought of Coldplay’s last offering, the melancholic, brooding Ghost Stories. An album produced in the shadow of Martin’s much sniggered at “Conscious Uncoupling” with Gwyneth Paltrow proved to be a haunting series of mournful, folksy ballads in the ilk of a tear-stained love letter. Two years down the line, the front man’s got his mojo back. On first listen sounds this album more like a follow up to 2011’s Mylo Xyloto than a Ghost Stories mark two. Nothing screams “I’m over splitting from my wife” like an upbeat opening track, filled with the classic Coldplay vim and vigour.

They follow up the title song with ‘Birds’, a metaphor driven, disco spectacular in which Martin sings in his trademark cracking falsetto “Close your eyes and see. And we’ll be birds flying free holding on in the mystery.” Despite the smashing Beyoncé feature, the album takes a downturn with the laboured sounding ‘A Hymn For The Weekend’, which lacks the bite found in Coldplay’s last heavyweight pop superstar collaboration (the Rihanna assisted ‘Princess of China’). A Heart Full Of Dreams’ outstanding song sees Martin draw from the forlorn depths of Ghost Stories, pinching none other than Paltrow’s vocals for the sombre, piano-fuelled ‘Everglow’, a lament on love that lasts forever. He reminds us “so if you love someone, you should let them know”, before tugging on our heart strings and referring to his former spouse: “oh the light that you left me will everglow.”

A Heart Full of Dreams’ central issue lies not in the quality of the songs, Coldplay are equally compelling in all their guises; the jumpy disco turns, and the emotionally intense ballads, they’re all there. They just don’t seem to fit. The greatest albums slot together seamlessly behind an overarching mood that carries us from the first song to the last. Victims of their own desire to experiment perhaps, Coldplay haven’t quite put together an entirely cohesive LP since the barnstorming Viva La Vida: Death and All His Friends. A lot of the time it feels like there’s simply too much going on, too quickly. ‘Everglow’, for example, is followed up by lead single ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’: a chart-friendly bouncing offering driven by sharp riffs. But a transition that feels like moving from a dark dingy cellar out into the blinding sun, with the light unexpectedly hitting our eyes harshly. We’re wallowing in Martin’s sorrow one moment, then simply expected to get giddy with him the next? It doesn’t quite work.

We’re wallowing in Martin’s sorrow one moment, then simply expected to get giddy with him the next? It doesn’t quite work

Nearing its conclusion, the album takes another jolting change in shape of ‘Kaleidoscope’: an interlude that makes use of an ancient Rumi poem about social acceptance and features President Obama’s rousing rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ at murdered Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral this year. Just like that, A Heart Full of Dreams enters a final third that attempts to uplift. The band close the show with ‘Up and Up’: a vintage Coldplay number that does exactly what it says on the tin, starting slowly before building up to a rousing choir-backed crescendo. You can feel the strobe lights and imagine the sweat rolling off of Martin’s temple even now. It’s a sure-fire concert closer.

Despite never truly fitting together, A Head Full of Dreams sees Coldplay return to their very best at times, channeling the old, the new and the not-so-new to gift us with a pretty stellar stocking filler.



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