IT’S HARD to listen to Coldplay’s sixth studio album without Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” springing to mind. That’s partly because the split of the band’s singer and his wife directly preceded the album’s release, yet also because Martin has chosen to deliver his angst directly to his listening public.
Or rather, it feels as though Paltrow herself is the ultimate recipient of every one of these tracks, which is an odd experience. The music is sober, even maudlin, but the intimacy that might suggest is replaced by a cloying discomfort for anyone who may be listening with any sense of context.
For a decidedly one-note break-up album it’s remarkably efficient, however, and it’s possible to imagine the lovelorn drinking whisky from a mug late at night to the soporific falsetto chime of Always On My Mind, Magic’s minimalist, despairing rap or Ink’s vanilla comparison of lifelong love to a tattoo, a sonic Fields Of Gold by Sting for the 2010s (“I love you so, so much it hurts”).
True Love’s opening notes threaten to swell into the churning bombast of Viva La Vida, but instead they’re drawn out on the rack of a pining guitar solo, while Another’s Arms agonises its composer with the thought of his partner and a new lover and Oceans hits new heights of emotional self-immolation with a church bell solo over the coda. Amid the gloom, there are two highlights: first, the hair-on-end electronic inertia of Midnight; and near the end, the overdue crescendo of A Sky Full Of Stars, a single Coldplay classic in an album which feels like it’s been building to this song. David Pollock
Download: Midnight, A Sky Full Of Stars