COLDPLAY – EVERYDAY LIFE
Coldplay doesn’t really need an introduction. For a brief moment they were a cool band for hipsters, but almost overnight they were simultaneously global superstars and the butt of jokes. Even after the the bulk of the hype has died down, a new release from Coldplay is still a pretty big event in the music world. Every one of their albums so far has sold millions of copies worldwide. But in recent years the quality of their output has decreased a bit. And their last album was the first in 10 years to not reach #1 on the US charts (though it still reached a more than respectable #2).
Everyday Life is the band’s eighth album and their first double album, split into the halves Sunrise and Sunset. Despite being a double album, it’s not the band’s longest, coming in a few minutes short of A Rush of Blood to the Head and a full 10 minutes short of X&Y. While Everyday Life‘s 16 tracks could technically fit on one album, there is allegedly a line drawn between the themes of the two halves, but I’m not so sure that line is as bold as they think it is.
To use a cliche music journalism term, the production on Everyday Life is much more organic than Coldplay’s recent releases. There is considerably less electronic and disco influence on this album and some moments sound closer to their “classic” albums than they’ve been in years. But that doesn’t mean there’s no growth or experimentation. There are songs with influences from gospel, Middle Eastern, African, and even bluegrass music. Even songs without a clear musical influence have passages sung or recited in Arabic, French, Spanish, and the Igbo language of Nigeria. And just because the production is “organic” it doesn’t mean there aren’t big moments. A few songs have orchestration, but they aren’t as squeaky clean as songs on an album like Viva la Vida.
Lyrically the overall theme of the album is the shared struggles of all humanity and how love is the thing that can help us all endure. This is clearest on the track “Bani Adam” (which is printed in Arabic in the track listing and translates to “Children of Adam”) that takes its title from a poem by Saadi Shirazi. The track is essentially an instrumental interlude or extended intro for “Champion of the World,” but it has a recitation of the title poem, a sample of The Sun by John and Alice Coltrane, and a sample of a Nigerian gospel song. The theme of all three samples is that we are all God’s creation and of equal value.
Other issues that are specifically mentioned are the way black Americans are treated by law enforcement (“Trouble in Town”), absent parents (“Daddy”), America’s unhealthy obsession with guns (“Guns,” duh), and political unrest in the Middle East (“Orphans”). It’s also worth noting that this is the first album from Coldplay to contain explicit lyrics, dropping the fuck-bomb on “Arabesque” and “Guns” to emphasize the point of each song.
My main criticism with this album is a common one with most double albums, and it’s that there’s some stuff on here that doesn’t really need to be included. Namely the opening instrumental and “WOTW/POTP,” the latter of which is literally an unfinished sketch of a song. The lyric booklet actually reads “I haven’t finished this one yet.” There’s clearly an emotion being conveyed, and while that comes through in the demo, I’d rather have the finished product. Also, while it’s nice to see that a band as big as Coldplay is still willing to experiment, I do wish some of that experimentation went a little farther. Similarly, other people might wish they dug a little deeper with the political lyrics, but I personally think this is about as deep as we can expect a band on this level of international stardom to get.
Overall, Everyday Life brings some welcome changes for a fan of Coldplay’s “original trilogy.” Super clean production and collaborations with Beyonce and Rihanna are traded for a more organic sound and more cohesive lyrical themes. Experimentation with other sounds is welcome but could have gone further. The flow of the album is a little uneven, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. The biggest problem is that there really aren’t any tracks that stick with you quite like some of the classics.