Clocking in at a shade under 53 minutes, the eighth studio album from Coldplay subverts expectations of typical double album excess and marks a sharp left turn for a band who have again embraced their experimental streak, merely hinted at on 2017’s Kaleidoscope EP. For much of the previous decade, they wholly embraced pop music amidst collaborations with the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé. Last time out, on 2015’s A Head Full of Dreams, the band tapped Stargate for a slickly-produced collection of songs suited for the stadiums they visited on the ensuing tour.
The requisite big-sounding songs are accounted for on Everyday Life, of course – even 2014’s sucker-punch breakup album Ghost Stories had the anthemic Avicii collaboration ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ sticking out like a sore thumb on a record that was their most reserved-sounding since they debuted at the start of the millennium with Parachutes – but it’s been quite a while since the band (vocalist and guitarist Chris Martin, lead guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion) have released an album this diverse. Over its 16 tracks, which range from skeletal acoustic guitar-driven songs like ‘WOTW/POTP’ and the scathing ‘Guns’ – on which Martin has the US constitution’s 2nd amendment in his sights – to dabbling in doo-wop (‘Cry Cry Cry’) and going for gospel (‘BrokEn’), Everyday Life stakes its claim as Coldplay’s most ambitious collection yet.
Its eclecticism outstrips even that of 2008’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, which in a similar way shook up their sound after they’d taken it to a natural endpoint. Since then they’ve consciously avoided repeating themselves. There are nods to past work here that long-time fans will appreciate – for instance, the heartwrenching ballad ‘Daddy’ is a real early-days throwback, its lyrics focusing on an estranged father-son relationship – but the album’s all over the map musically in a way that keeps listeners guessing. ‘Sunrise’ is a beautiful orchestral curtain-raiser arranged by longtime collaborator Davide Rossi, bleeding into the bass-driven R&B rhythms of ‘Church’ for the album’s opening salvo, one which indicates a willingness to take risks to the extent the band hasn’t before.
‘Trouble in Town’ tackles police brutality and its impact on minorities, its bridge featuring an expletive-laden recording of harassment and racial profiling against two men in Philadelphia in 2013, which indicates the album tackling the personal and political head-on. Of particular interest is where those topics intersect. ‘Arabesque’ pleads for solidarity and togetherness with reminders that ‘we share the same blood’. Built around a guitar ostinato, it’s lifted by brass interjections – and later, a sprawling solo – under the guidance of Femi Kuti, building to a spine-tingling peak that rivals their back catalogue’s heights as it stretches to nearly six minutes, the album retreating into itself immediately thereafter for the lush chorale of ‘When I Need a Friend’, which brings the first half of the record to a close.
Over on Sunset, ‘Orphans’, swings for the rafters as its lyrics pay tribute to refugees fleeing war-torn countries – one of the album’s purest pop moments, yet its lyrics tell of heartbreak and grief. ‘Sunrise’ finds its counterpart in the atmospheric instrumental ‘Bani Adam’, which starts out as a piano waltz before changing tack and time signature mid-way through as it gradually transitions into the album’s penultimate track via shimmering guitar lines and steady bass drum thump; and what a penultimate track it is: ‘Champion of the World’ truly soars, a touching tribute to Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison; the track interpolates ‘Los Angeles, Be Kind’, a track he released in 2014 under his Owl John side project, written as a kind of sister song to it. Everyday Life draws to a close with the title track, building from solo piano beginnings to an expansive finale as Martin sings, ‘Hold tight for everyday life.’ Throughout the album, which works best when listened through from start to finish, introspective and exploratory lyrics are set to a wide-ranging soundtrack that takes in as much of the world as it possibly can over 53 minutes and showcases a band who aren’t willing to rest on their laurels.
There was a time when they might have been content to sit back and write what might have been called a ‘typical’ Coldplay album, but following up a pop record with a wilfully experimental one such as this was the wiser move. It might take a few listens – on the whole, it skews far more to their adventurous side than trying to marry it to their accessible tendencies – but its brevity works in its favour. This time around, Coldplay don’t try to please everyone and put themselves first, but as self-indulgent as it might sound on paper, the reality is far more welcoming: the spiritual (pun very much intended) successor to Viva La Vida that once again rips up their rulebook and paints a picture of the band at their most daring. It’s a mystery as to where they go from here, but one thing is clear: this adventure of a lifetime is far from over.