After seven albums, Coldplay have surely already achieved every ambition a modern-day rock band dreams of. They have become one of the biggest acts on the planet, capable of selling out stadiums on every populated continent. They have become almost as well-known for their charitable efforts as Bono (at least, Chris Martin has), have been-there-and-done-that in the celebrity girlfriend/wife stakes (at least, Chris Martin has) and have even won over a number of hard-nosed critics in the process. The only plausible direction – apart from a total reinvention involving some elaborate high-art concept record – is, naturally, a double album.
At least they went about announcing their eighth album in a somewhat novel manner. Returning to an analogue mindset, they sent postcards to fans on their mailing list revealing Everyday Life’s title; just days later, the tracklisting appeared in the classified ads of various local and national newspapers around the world (including this one). Even the cover art is based on a photo of guitarist Jonny Buckland’s great-grandfather’s band, dating from 1919. Their promotional angle may be distinctly quaint, but Everyday Life doesn’t blaze a musically innovative trail. If anything, this 53-minute record (split into two parts: “Sunrise” and “Sunset”) plays it safe while simultaneously managing to be frustratingly inconsistent.
Orchestral instrumental track Sunrise initially sets a pastoral tone, but the lighthearted bounce of Orphans and the gentle thud and waves of synthy pop on Church are more recognisable fare. BrokEn, meanwhile, sees Martin veer into full-throttle call-and-response gospel music,while the hymnal church choir-infused When I Need a Friend drags the listener in yet another confusing direction.
The epic Arabesque throws caution to the wind with its freestyle brass-infused jazzy pop-rock; elsewhere, the gentle flutter of Èkó, with its references to Africa, are simultaneously enjoyable and imposingly self-indulgent.
Coldplay may be trying to prove their stylistic elasticity, but instead it comes off like a sugar-gorged six-year-old at a birthday party declaring “look at me!” as they chaotically spring from trampoline to sandpit.
The lyrics of these songs are somewhat easier to grasp. Martin lays his cards on the table with the racially-charged Trouble in the Town (“I get no shelter, and I get no peace/And I just get more police”), which incorporates a vocal clip from a police stop and search. Guns is a well-intentioned but clumsily phrased effort to rile up the Trumps of the world: “War is good for business, cut the forests, they’re so dumb.”
Other songs take a more personal slant. Church is one of the only obvious love songs here, while Old Friends wistfully recalls simpler times and Champion of the World hurtles headlong into nostalgia with references to ET and rocket ships.
It’s Daddy that will arguably prove the biggest talking point on this album, though. Depending on your general mood and your disposition toward Martin, it’s either a tender tearjerker or a cynical ploy to shoehorn a Fix You-style ballad onto the tracklist.
More than anything else, Everyday Life brings a clarity to Coldplay’s place in the world, eight albums deep. Some would argue that – at least since their debut Parachutes – they have never been an “albums” band, but they have been nevertheless capable of tossing out spectacular singles through the years. A double album painfully highlights how much filler (like the half-baked WOTW/POTP) Coldplay pad their records with.
Then again, even with the filler sheared off this record and its nuts and bolts tightened, there would still be something missing. As Martin sings on the title track, “Am I the future or the history?” On the basis of this album, that’s yet to be decided.