Coldplay Everyday Life Parlophone, out now
There is a pattern to a pop career. A band or singer will shoot up a ladder and then, in slow motion, land on a series of snakes. That is, unless they happen to be the four friends from University College London who have now spent half their lives as Coldplay.
Chris Martin and co managed to ship 60 per cent more copies of their last album, A Head Full Of Dreams, than of its predecessor, Ghost Stories. Their idea of a flop is an album that sells only three million.
They have yet to resort to releasing their Greatest Hits, even though there are 18 Top Ten singles in the bag.
The image on the Everyday Life album cover, above, is based on a 1919 photo of Jonny Buckland’s great-grandfather’s band
How do they do it? By working hard and adapting to survive – taking their pensive indie-pop on journeys, first towards the arenas, then the campfire, the festivals, and lately the dance floor.
A quartet that used to be self-contained has worked with gurus from Brian Eno to Max Martin and superstars from Jay-Z to Rihanna. Now they’ve decided to zoom off in ten different directions at the same time.
Everyday Life, their first double LP, is as close as Coldplay are likely to come to The Beatles’ ‘White Album’.
There’s a lush instrumental, a Middle Eastern banger, a scratchy demo, a blast of Afro jazz and two piano ballads, and that’s just the first disc. There are lyrics in French and Arabic, a film clip in Spanish, a very American gospel tune and a very English hymn.
There’s a protest song about America’s gun culture, which they attack with British irony. There are even, for the first time in Martin’s career, four-letter words.
The album could end up smaller than the sum of its parts, but Coldplay seem alive to the danger. The Afro-jazz number is pure dynamism, the gospel track euphoric, the hymn so redolent of evensong in the shires that you may well wonder if it’s ancient or modern.
(Answer: brand new.)
Once the instrumental opener is out of the way, this still feels like a Coldplay album. There’s no shortage of chiming guitars, soulful piano, comfortable teamwork or colossal ooh-woohs.
And it will take more than our troubled times to sink Martin’s boyish optimism: the final message, on the beautiful title track, is ‘Gotta keep dancing when the lights go out’.
In the age of Ed Sheeran, Everyday Life feels refreshingly uncalculated. Martin’s singing is less mannered than before, freer and more personal. Daddy, addressed to a man who needs reminding about his child’s birthday, makes you wish the Brits had an award for Most Intimate Vocal.
The last Coldplay album to get five stars from me was A Rush Of Blood To The Head, back in 2002. Everyday Life is better, because it’s both audacious and touching – a rush of warmth to the heart.
GIG OF THE WEEK
King George’s Hall, Blackburn Touring until December 12
Even more than most old rockers, Adam Ant is a survivor. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder decades ago, he has done time on psychiatric wards, but here he is, at 65, apparently fine and typically dandy.
In his pomp, he was both a pin-up and a pioneer. The king of the dressing-up drawer also introduced teenyboppers to the pleasures of the polyrhythm. Even now, he has two drummers.
This show begins with Adam’s solo debut album, Friend Or Foe (1982), in full. It features his second-most famous line, ‘Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?’, from Goody Two Shoes – plus a couple of classics and a little too much filler.
He gets away with it by rattling along.
This show begins with Adam Ant’s solo debut album, Friend Or Foe (1982), in full. It features his second-most famous line, ‘Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?’, from Goody Two Shoes
There are signs of corners being cut. The video screen is about three feet high and offers no close-ups. More impressively, the trumpet solo from Desperate But Not Serious is played by Adam himself, with his voice.
Like his silhouette, it’s in good shape.
The second half, celebrating Adam And The Ants’ heyday, is stronger. The hits may be little more than a chant and a beat, but those things age well. Prince Charming is both visceral and moral: ‘ridicule is nothing to be scared of’ may be the most wholesome message ever sung to, and by, a million 12-year-olds.
Those fans, now 50-ish, have fun doing the old dances, all hands and elbows. By the time he plays Stand And Deliver, Adam has five drummers – and a grateful smile on his face.
THIS WEEK’S CD RELEASES
By Adam Woods
Céline Dion Courage Out now
Céline Dion takes a few risks on her first English-language album in six years, dipping into pounding dance music (Flying On My Own), a hip-hopinflected pseudo-Bond theme (Lovers Never Die) – even a sultry reggae thing (Nobody’s Watching). But fans of her glory days are surely here for the likes of Lying Down and the title track, which ends up going full Céline – huge, triumphant and indomitable
Beck Hyperspace Out now
You can roughly carve dependable pop enigma Beck Hansen’s albums into the funky, fun ones and the sad acoustic ones. Hyperspace is that rare Beck artefact: a sad pop album, its warm, synthy melodies – written and produced with Happy/Blurred Lines hitman Pharrell Williams – among Hansen’s prettiest. Yet heartache is never far beneath the surface
Rod Stewart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
You’re In My Heart Out now
Sir Rod is celebrating 50 years as a solo artist, but his contribution here is merely to supply decades-old vocals, around which Trevor Horn wraps lush new orchestral arrangements. The 15-strong track list presumably wrote itself: Maggie May, Sailing, Reason To Believe, Have I Told You Lately and the rest. A two-CD version throws in seven more hits
Joe Stilgoe Joe Stilgoe’s Christmas Album Out now
The contribution of jazzman Joe Stilgoe to the Christmas market is at the upper end: traditional but not predictable, smooth but never unctuous. Stilgoe romps and croons through well-chosen seasonal oldies and originals, with his nimble piano and various guests in tow. Notable among them is Rob Brydon, who sings I’ll Be Home For Christmas with not a quip in sight