A Head Full of Dreams (Coldplay) – review

Coldplay’s seventh album, bursting at the seams with its kaleidoscopic colours on December 4th came as a bit of a shock to everyone. Having been announced merely a month before after a long silence, there were two ways this album was going to be received. Either it would go unnoticed, passively acknowledged by those who have vaguely heard of Coldplay – those four British guys who did Paradise, oh and the one who was with Gwenyth Paltrow. They’re alright, a bit wet.

Or, A Head Full of Dreams would represent four years of waiting, since Mylo Xyloto. Yes, there was a Coldplay album last year and it was stunning. But the guys themselves didn’t really make much of a big deal of Ghost Stories – which in itself is a terrible shame for something so beautiful.

I fell into the second category of people, awaiting AHFOD with anticipation but also fear. As the band had chosen a pretty extreme and explosive marketing technique, I only had under a month to prepare for 11 songs which were going to have to last me probably at least two years, if not more. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? It’s not as if Coldplay let me say how much I loved Ghost Stories, as they stayed quite well hidden to lick their wounds after writing the painful post-breakup album that came out in 2014. In recent interviews, Chris Martin boasts how happy the band has been on A Head Full of Dreams, that it’s the way he’s always wanted them to sound. If this is true, my heart weeps.

A Head Full of Dreams has fallen into the trap. Artists that write their own music and start small with acoustic guitars and dirty trainers in sweaty London clubs start to become appreciated by a more mainstream audience after a certain amount of time. They pick up on their hit single featuring that really cool and hip R’N’B singer, and decide that yeah, Coldplay are actually quite cool. That’s right, I’m talking about you ‘Princess of China’. >i>A Head Full of Dreams is just kind of disposable. Coldplay has been referred to as boring and has developed quite a specific fanbase over time – some feel so powerfully about their sound and religiously adore everything they do, while others just remain indifferent. The problem is that with this album, everyone is put at that same distance.

AHFOD lacks the tangible rawness that ran through Parachutes and made A Rush of Blood to the Head so affecting. Instrumentals on this album sound muffled and bland. Although the cover art boasts vibrant and explosive feelings, it all just feels a bit burnt out. The album is definitely going to go down well on the band’s upcoming stadium tour and the fields of Glastonbury will echo through with ‘Hymn for the Weekend’, but how good is a record if you have to build an entire scenario around which the songs are enjoyable? The songs on Coldplay’s new offering are transposable into situations and instead of telling new stories, they just feel like pale illustrations to existing ones. An adequate B-side to Mylo Xyloto, if you will.

Vocals sound muted, instruments stripped of acoustic worth and lyrics have become quite honestly laughable. Have a look at ‘X Marks the Spot’, I dare you. This is all sounding rather dramatic, but it’s not that bad. Old school Coldplay peeps out from behind the over-saturated curtains in the bridge of ‘Amazing Day’, while the last third of ‘Birds’ even reminisces early Strokes material to an extent.

The problem is that AHFOD is the album that people who dislike Coldplay will think Coldplay always sound like. Harmless and insipid, breaking no boundaries and just making a bit more money. After a congratulating pat on the head for the four-piece’s newfound happiness, why don’t we just go back to Mylo Xyloto and wait until this all blows over. 

★★☆☆☆

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