Jump to content

Ghost Stories Reviews

Recommended Posts

Not seen/couldn't find a thread of press reviews about Ghost Stories...


This one is from the Guardian


Coldplay: Ghost Stories review – Chris Martin's heartache hasn't inspired poetry


Their frontman's marriage breakup sees Coldplay consciously uncoupling the band's music from the swaggering melodies of old – but the lyrics are still humdrum


The tracklisting for Coldplay's sixth album was announced on 3 March, almost three weeks to the day before singer Chris Martin and his wife Gwyneth Paltrow announced their separation, by way of a brief post that appeared amid the recipes for pasta with dandelion leaves and quinoa-stuffed kiobtcha on the latter's website, Goop. It didn't take a genius to link the contents of the first document with the second: there was always a chance that songs called things like Another's Arms and Always in My Head might navigate similar emotional terrain to Boney M's Hooray! Hooray! It's a Holi-Holiday!, but it didn't seem terribly likely.


The realisation that Ghost Stories is Coldplay's divorce album might even cause someone hitherto uninterested in the band's oeuvre to feel a certain prickle of interest. As they've gone about the business of selling 70m albums, one of the most persistent criticisms aimed at them is that, for all its undoubted ability to entice stadium audiences to lift their lighters aloft, their music is so fixated on moving vast crowds of people that it doesn't deal in anything other than universally applicable but ultimately hollow generalities: what a recent New York Times review damningly called "sympathetic songs [that] serve as stand-ins for feeling … a clear outline to fill in". Perhaps a dose of public heartbreak might provide some substance.


Ghost Stories signposts its emotional temperature from the off: it opens with a female choir, wordless and sorrowful, who give way to a distinctly muted variation on Coldplay's patented mesh of echoing guitar and Chris Martin singing, "I think of you, I haven't slept." It sets the tone of the album, which proceeds to do all the things you'd expect – echoing guitars, wafty electronics, elegiac piano ballads that swell into anthemic territory, tasteful string arrangements, falsetto vocals – only more dolefully than before.


Anyone hoping Ghost Stories might offer a glimpse into the complex workings of a soul undergoing the trauma of divorce, juxtaposing a variety of contrasting emotions along the way, is going to be disappointed. Ghost Stories is an album that, metaphorically speaking, just mopes about the place in its dressing gown, too sorry for itself to do or say much. It sighs and stares out of the window at some birds (O), sighs and looks at the telephone, which doesn't ring (Oceans) and has a wistful little think about the good times (True Love). Another's Arms finds it slumped alone in front of the telly, glumly ruminating that it's nicer watching the telly with someone else, especially if that someone else is giving you a cuddle.


You might point out that this is an accurate depiction of misery, that heartbreak is actually a pretty mundane business that does indeed involve much moping about the place in your dressing gown and slumping in front of the telly. Moreover, as anyone who's ever tried consoling a heartbroken friend will tell you, they tend to talk in precisely the kind of platitudes on offer here: "It feels like there's something broken inside", "I love you so much it hurts", "I don't want anyone else but you." In response, you might equally reasonably point out that it's the job of an artist to find the extraordinary in the everyday, to take a universal, mundane experience and say something insightful or striking or original or witty about it. If you can't, don't bother getting changed out of your dressing gown: you might as well stay slumped in front of Bargain Hunt until you can be bothered to get up.


As it is, Ghost Stories proves a rather chastening experience for anyone who believes Martin's lyrics dealt in cliches because he had one gimlet eye permanently fixed on mass appeal. No, it suggests, that's just the way he writes, even with his gaze fixed inward, lost in his own personal misery. There's no doubt Ghost Stories is a beautifully-produced album, full of lovely sonic details: glitchy, clicking drum patterns high in the mix, the sonar-like noise that runs through Oceans in lieu of a beat, the way the piano riff of A Sky Full of Stars gradually gives way to a vast, EDM-like synth. There are certainly nice tunes, but the music seems to have consciously uncoupled itself from the swaggering, shameless melodies that peppered Coldplay's previous albums: there's nothing here built along the undeniable lines of Paradise or Viva La Vida or The Scientist.


Whether that's an act of bravery or evidence of a lack of inspiration is a moot point, but in their absence, the most striking things here are the tracks that shift furthest away from the standard Coldplay blueprint: the lovely, beatless, vocoder-heavy drift of Midnight – based on an old track by electronic auteur Jon Hopkins – and the single Magic, which sounds not unlike the kind of beautifully understated pop song Everything But the Girl might have come up with in their mid-90s dance music phase.


The rest is understated and equivocal, pleasant but underwhelming. It begs indulgence, then doesn't do enough to repay it. That's the problem with moping around in your dressing gown: eventually people's sympathy wears out.


3/5 starts



Link to comment
Share on other sites

REVIEW: Coldplay Makes Tragic Magic on New Album Ghost Stories

It's a smaller, softer Coldplay — for better or for worse

Coldplay became the biggest rock band in the world just as the very concept began to seem antiquated. Like a mass-market retailer nicking fashion trends and looks from high-end designers and runway shows, Chris Martin and company rose to prominence by distilling the sounds of their ancestors and critically feted contemporaries into hyper-melodic, stadium-sized anthems. On their first two albums, Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head, they sanded down the arty, oft-angular rock of U2, David Bowie, and Radiohead, rendering it gentler and more easily listenable; songs like “Yellow” and “The Scientist” found traction amongst the great middle and were assimilated into the pop canon almost immediately. That sound was taken to its logical extent on X&Y, an ambitious but bloated document that found the band sprinkling their compositions with string arrangements and electronic flecks


So with no room left to expand, Coldplay enlisted legendary producer Brian Eno to help broaden and refine their sound. The result was 2008’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, an eclectic, relatively succinct collection of pop songs complete with digressions into shoegaze, Afro-pop, and crunching rock. Three years later, Mylo Xyloto found the band steering even further into pop-friendly terrain, cribbing from kinetic and heartsick indie bands in equal measure for a concept record about love at the end of the world. As their sound evolved, they remained anchors of the music industry, even as more straightforward strains of pop and hip-hop became indisputably dominant in a commercial sense; their sales remained strong, even as many of their peers struggled to keep pace.


It’s good to remember that history when considering the band’s sixth studio album, Ghost Stories, which finds them once again employing the sonic approach they have perfected, albeit with different source material. Much of the album sounds like Coldplay’s take on an acclaimed vein of gentle, emotionally vulnerable music that explores the overlapping realms of rock, R&B, and electronic sounds: the woodsy, warped hymns of Bon Iver, James Blake’s throbbing confessionals, the muted pillow talk of the xx. There is one major outlier, a pounding quasi-EDM collaboration with the popular producer Avicii; it reeks of pandering. (A team-up with Timbaland, “True Love,” fares a little better.) The frosty, meandering “Midnight” bears this influence most heavily, twisting Martin’s signature nimble, soft falsetto through a vocoder and layering it like dead leaves left on a forest floor, but there are lesser signs scattered throughout the album: the simple beat-driven intro that kicks off “Magic,” the skittering percussion that drives the weepy “True Love,” the haunted choir behind “Another’s Arms.” Martin’s vocals mostly pair well with this new, adjusted direction, but the heightened focus on groove and piano-based melody marginalizes the typically dependable contributions of lead guitarist Jonny Buckland; gleaming six-string hooks of the sort that anchored the best songs on the band’s first few albums are few and far between here.


But for all the sonic shifts that take place on Ghost Stories, the album’s greatest break from Coldplay’s tradition is lyrical. Never one to shy away from a platitude or a vague, potentially universal statement about life and love, Martin’s recent “conscious uncoupling” from his wife, the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, has inspired his rawest, most personal writing to date. The set of lines that opens “Another’s Arms” neatly encapsulates the album’s pained, stingingly detailed tone: “Late night watching TV, used to be you here beside me / Used to be your arms around me, your body on my body.” Every song on the album seems to pack at least one comparable couplet; Martin can’t help but chronicle his despair and regret, lament their shared failure, or glance fondly at the magic he and Paltrow once shared. The loss of grandeur that seeps through Ghost Stories — the lack of scale, the smallness — begins to make sense in this context: as Martin has shrunk his lyrical universe from the broadly applicable to the cringe-inducingly personal, the band’s compositions have shrunk in turn.


While the dissolution of Martin’s marriage makes for undeniably compelling lyrical fodder, his personal experience may be writing checks his songwriting expertise can’t cash: his veering between cliché and uncomfortable detail never quite hits the mark when it comes to adequately realizing his feelings. It’s only when his voice, and the melodies that make up Ghost Stories, are able to bear the emotional weight, that the album achieves the resonance that made its predecessors world-beating hits.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...