You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Coldplay’s Ghost Stories: Heart of stone

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-06-2014 Somak Ghoshal

It took at least three patient hearings to disentangle each of the nine songs from the gooey treacle of emotions that comprise Coldplay’s sixth studio album and to register them as distinct entities in one’s head. Listening to the syncopated beats, saccharine chords and sibilant chorus that characterize nearly every song in Ghost Stories for close to an hour may leave you feeling as though you have been subjected to an extended lament—which is what the entire album seems to be about anyway.

A few weeks after the tracks were announced, lead vocalist Chris Martin separated from his wife Gwyneth Paltrow, the Hollywood star. The scars of the break-up have been laid on with a trowel in the lyrics and arrangement of the songs in Ghost Stories. From the song titles (Always In My Head and Another’s Arms, to state some of the obvious ones) to Martin’s unremitting falsetto (which assumes a new doleful high here), no effort has been spared to present this album as the ultimate testimony to the woes of heartbreak. And yet, very little about the songs feels true, let alone visceral, which is what you expect of a “divorce album”.

The songs merely encourage the broken-hearted to keep wallowing in self-pity and seek comfort from the deluge of platitudes they so effortlessly deliver. Singing of the misery that comes from waiting for the phone to ring (which, of course, it never does) or from lying alone in bed and being kept awake by the thought of the beloved in someone else’s bed, the songs in Ghost Stories are standard-issue dirges for a love that has been lost.

Ghost Stories: Sony Music, Rs 499You would be kidding oneself to expect profundity from Coldplay songs—with lyrics like Every teardrop is a waterfall, words were never their strength anyway. In this album too, the band does not attempt to scale any greater depth than I think of you, I haven’t slept when it comes to songwriting, choosing instead to depend, quite shamelessly, on their usual dulcet melodies to convey what they cannot say in words. But even the typical Coldplay sound—a soothing combination of acoustic guitars and lush keyboards that makes you feel as though you are soaking in a warm bath or digging into a tub of ice cream—has morphed into heavy electronic beats and artificial noise in Ghost Stories. Indeed, there are moments when one has to remind oneself that this is an album by Coldplay, and not by the Chemical Brothers.

All this is not to say that the album lacks the mandatory charm one associates with the band. But it is hard to tell what the source of that appeal is—does it lie in the songs themselves or in the artful packaging?

One of the most popular songs in the album, for instance, is Magic. It is a robust piece, a foot-tapping composition that you may find yourself humming. Yet it may also strike you as just a tad underwhelming as a purely aural experience, without the paraphernalia of a Disneyfied music video to prop up its appeal.

Similarly, Midnight, full of spectral whispers, feels complete only when it is watched rather than simply played. The spectacular video that accompanies it—set in a forest and shot through a spooky filter, with wild animals looking at the band members with eyes aglow—helps bring out the pathos and desolation of the hour the song talks about.

While music videos are meant to complement songs, in the case of Coldplay—especially with the band’s later albums such as Mylo Xyloto (2011)—the emphasis seems to have shifted from strong vocal to striking visual elements. Whereas in their early songs (Spies, Yellow, The Scientist), the melodic lines were powerfully defined to convey the impact of the unostentatious lyrics (they were, unfortunately, as unimaginative back in those days as they are now), Coldplay seem to be increasingly relying on everything other than the human voice to work their magic. Ghost Stories is the first proper casualty of this evolving syndrome.

Ghost Stories is available in stores and for downloadon the iTunes store.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon