At the midpoint of “Trouble in Town”, a sparse bit of kick-drum melancholy that recalls Peter Gabriel, Chris Martin’s distinct vocals take a backseat to audio of a Philadelphia police officer threatening a black man in his car.
“Don’t come back with the ‘What is it?’ f***ing s**t!” the cop shouts, as he orders the man to produce his ID – embodying another violent altercation on the streets of the USA between law enforcement and people of colour.
Everyday Life, the band’s eighth record, has been billed as a departure; a rare venture into the lyrical realm of the political and the angry, its cover art alluding to time travel and its title written in both English and Arabic.
Many will argue Coldplay should have stayed in their lane, producing vaguely interchangeable middle-of-the-road music that is still often warm and likeable, whatever their detractors may claim. And with lyrics like, “Everyone’s going f***ing crazy/ Maybe I’m crazy”, on the anti-firearm anthem “Guns”, it may not be the most outrageous request.
But it would be wrong to not at least celebrate an attempt to break with tradition. Everyday Life still sounds on-brand for the most part, with maudlin tracks like “Daddy” and “Old Friends” not radically different to past work. The same goes for the soaring chorus and hints at magical realism in “Champion of the World”, a giddy ode to joy, featuring references to ET.
There’s enough grit and genre blurring here, however, to justify boasts of experimentation. “Orphans”, a sonically upbeat Max Martin production, is fuelled by desperately sad lyrics about the Syrian civil war, while “Church”, underpinned by a wavy, airy Kurt Vile soundscape, ponders feelings of disenchantment and hopelessness.
Elsewhere, the band step aside for moody interludes dominated by Iranian vocalists and samples of Afrobeat musician Femi Kuti. It similarly flirts with jazz, gospel and bluegrass, albeit often in too-brief snippets that feel more like rough sketches than complete songs.
Ultimately, though, Everyday Life is a fascinating, occasionally brilliant curio, reflective of a band still very much figuring out how to respond to a world that has become meaner, dirtier and crueller since they were singing about clocks and colours. They’re not quite there, but you can admire the effort all the same.
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