Coldplay’s Ghost Stories: Sad songs from a sad place
They should have called this album Chris’s Cri de Coeur as this short (42 minutes), nine-track affair is lyrically dominated by tear-soaked sentiments of love and loss. A random scan of the lyrics throws up “I got broken in two”, “I’ve lost you now, you let me go”, “I can’t get over you”, “I don’t want anybody else with you”, “Go on, tear me apart” and “the pain rips right through me”. Just in case we hadn’t got the message, the term “I’m broken inside” also gets a fair few reprises.
This should be the band’s sixth studio album but it isn’t. This sounds more like an extended EP specifically detailing Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling” from Gywneth Paltrow. From the Transition-Year style lyrics of lost love, we now know who did the dumping. But all is ok, because Chris – no matter how broken and battered – still believes in a thing called love.
Paradoxically, without Brian Eno on board, this is Coldplay’s most Eno-sounding album: a muted, sad ambience hangs like a melancholic miasma over eight of the nine tracks. Opener Always In My Head sounds like Joshua Tree-era U2 but with the gloom turned up to 11. Down and down we go as the surprisingly hushed instrumentation and downbeat tempos mirror Martin’s fragile state.
It isn’t until the penultimate track, A Sky Full of Stars, that the old Coldplay – with their expansive, enormodome sound – reappear. But even here there’s more Love Will Tear Us Apart-style lyrics. The fact that the song has a bouncy Eurovision-style beat places it apart.
Very much a transitional work, there is, though, something affecting about its emotional honesty. This man really sounds hurt. And people will respond to that.
But that’s Coldplay for you. From the NME and Camden indie dives to gazillion-selling superstars and now this sideways step into mournful despair. Such an odd album – tears on the tracks, and a broken heart on its sleeve.