Coldplay's Chris Martin and his actress-wife Gwyneth Paltrow could have saved the "conscious uncoupling" announcement and simply let the band's new "Ghost Stories" (Parlophone/Atlantic) album serve notice of their breakup.
All nine of the songs here are tinged with loneliness and heartbreak. And the band's move toward the icier end of EDM only magnifies the chill of Martin's lyrics.
"Flock of birds, hovering above, just a flock of birds, that's how you think of love," he sings in "O." In the lament "True Love," he muses, "For a second I was in control, I had it once. I lost it though." On "Ink," he worries that he "feels like something broken inside" and later that "all I know is that I love you so, so much that it hurts."
While the rest of Coldplay tries to support Martin with a stunningly spare, well-produced musical backdrop, the sadness eventually overwhelms them, too. Only "Magic," with its looping bass-and-drum background, and the soaring "Sky Full of Stars," with its pop-leaning dance beat, are able to escape the feeling of doom. It's too bad, really, because musically, the band took an unexpected creative turn.
"Sky Full of Stars" is the closest thing to what people have come to expect from Coldplay, an anthem that outlines a problem but ends up soaring. However, it's clear from "Ghost Stories" that Martin just doesn't have that kind of energy this time around.
For some artists, heartbreak is inspirational. For Martin, it seems to have had the opposite effect.
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THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE This is what becomes of the broken-hearted.