Drowned in pop production
Coldplay is a band that needs no introduction. After scoring a hit on their debut album with the song “Yellow,” each release since has gained them more success and notoriety. Driving this success has been a steady transition from their indie rock roots to a more polished pop-rock sound.
On their latest release, “Ghost Stories,” it seems the band has fully embraced this transition, producing an album replete with the digital fluff of today’s pop music.
Promoted as a concept album dealing with singer Chris Martin’s divorce from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, you won’t find anything but broad, painful lyrics to guide you through “Ghost Stories.” Great breakup albums (Bon Iver’s debut and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” come to mind) afford the chance to confront issues and present exposed, inspired music. However, Martin refuses to dig beneath the surface, treating us to gems like: “late night watching TV/ used to be here beside me/ used to be your arms around me/ your body on my body.”
The band refuses to dig deep musically as well, and most of the tracks find the group settling comfortably into one groove and passing the time. The opener, “Always in My Head,” delivers a classic Coldplay sound and then does nothing with it. “Midnight” is even worse, featuring a pulsating electronic feel and driving bass drum that builds and builds only to deliver you back to where you started.
And while songs like “Magic” and “A Sky Full of Stars” are really catchy, the lack of substance will find the song out of your head within minutes.
There are a few redeeming moments on “Ghost Stories” that remind us that the songs are still in Coldplay somewhere. “Oceans” is a subdued track featuring acoustic guitar and a subtle electric piano pulse that is reminiscent of the music the band was writing on 2000’s “Parachutes.”
This is one of the only songs on the record to use an authentic string section sound instead of a digital one, adding an eerie, haunting feeling to this mysterious, moody track.
The other somewhat successful track is the closer “O,” which finds Martin alone at an acoustic piano. The contrast between the pure, rich sound of the piano here with the preceding “A Sky Full of Stars” is stark, the latter being so filtered and digitally tampered with it loses most of it’s acoustic warmth. The abandonment of acoustic instruments on this album isn’t necessarily the problem, but it is definitely a sign of the flawed creative process at work.
There might be decent songs on this album, but you won’t be able to find them under all the synthetic polish they are drowned in.
But honestly, why should Coldplay care? They’re pop stars now, so they’ll sell millions of records regardless.
2 stars out of 5.
DOWNLOAD NOW: “Oceans.”