Remember when Radiohead ‘went dance’, via a rummage around the Warp back catalogue? The result was 2000’s ‘Kid A’ – confusing at first, but ultimately an essential LP in the band’s evolution.
On ‘Ghost Stories’, it could be argued that Coldplay are, likewise, ‘going dance’. Unfortunately Chris Martin is no Thom Yorke, and he’s stretched himself creatively only so far as to collaborate with Swedish house producer Avicii. The result, ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’, is essentially Stadium Rock Does Calvin Harris. And it needs to die.
If you’re getting the sense, now, that ‘Ghost Stories’ is a Coldplay album that lacks much of the band’s own identity, you’re right on the money: from moments that recall Bon Iver to others which summon the aesthetic of previous producer Brian Eno but stop short of his spirit, Martin’s morose men have rarely been so invisible on their own material.
‘Ghost Stories’ is not without prettiness – opener ‘Always In My Head’ is a warm rush of enveloping keys, and ‘Oceans’ delivers on the promise of a stripped-back collection compared to 2011’s ‘ Mylo Xyloto’ (review), its acoustic guitar more touching than the electro drones elsewhere. But it’s only an ephemeral beauty, of little lasting impression. Martin’s lyrics, too, can cloy horribly, the tattoo-as-metaphor slushiness of ‘Ink’ the most heinous offender.
Separation is writ large across the themes of ‘Ghost Stories’ – and knowing what came next in Martin’s personal life, perhaps that was always to be expected. What’s not is just how lifeless so much of this material is, how instantly forgettable these songs are. Which, from a band that made ‘The Scientist’, ‘Clocks’ and ‘Viva La Vida’, is simply criminal.
4/10 (our scoring system explained)
Words: Mike Diver
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