Album Review: Coldplay – Ghost Stories

That didn’t last long.

Coldplay’s upbeat almost happy embrace to song writing that defined much of 2011’s anthemic Mylo Xyloto is completely wiped away with Ghost Stories (out today). There is no paradise on this latest effort that is moody, a bit slow and just downright melancholy.

What one outlet dubbed the “Divorce Album,” Ghost Stories sounds more like a full length apology from lead singer Chris Martin to his ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow. Martin, shortly after he and Paltrow famously “uncoupled” said he blames himself for the breakup but despite the clear anguish of Ghost Stories, rumors already have him with another woman.

Ghost Stories begins with “Always in My Head,” which opens with a choir chanting before Martin’s recognizable vocals kick in, “I think of you, I haven’t slept, I think I do.” If the title is not clear enough, it’s a definite love song. Guitarist Jonny Buckland adds a catchy rhythm guitar to help push the song along. Interestingly, the song abruptly comes to an end.

The album’s first single “Magic” which fans have digested now for more than a month, sounded initially like a coupling (sorry!) between Muse’s “Madness” and an adult contemporary hit from the 1980s. Honestly, after just a few listens this song really sticks in your head with a solid catchy beat. About two and a half minutes, the real Coldplay stands up with that familiar sound resonating with Martin’s falsetto.

“Ink” continues the love-lost theme with lyrics like “All I know is I love you so, so much it hurts” but the drum machine fill weakens the overall play of this song.

“True Love” is another drum machine song that brings the first guitar solo of the album to the front which drops in like another song starting out of nowhere three minutes in. It’s flat, completely out of place and does nothing for “True Love.”

Most of, if not all of this album, feels produced using synths and a computer. Drummer Will Champion seems to have little if any role unless he’s the Geppetto behind what simply sounds like an overworked drum machine. Buckland rarely shows up and when he does, his contributions are easily forgotten.

“Midnight” is a pretty dark tune and a drastic change for the band. It features a repetitive new age beat and an odd reverb affect added to Martin’s vocals. If not for the underlining moodiness “Midnight” would see the light of day at day spas everywhere. “Another Arms” brings more anguishing vocals and is actually a pretty good song except for the angelic sounding choir sporadically placed.

“Oceans” is more boring than sad and has little melody save for the visual of Martin crooning “You find yourself alone” somewhere all alone. The last minute of “Oceans” takes a bizarre turn of nonsensical noise with the faint sounds of church bells in the distance.

The best song on the album “Sky Full of Stars” features a great piano intro and is rather Coldplayesque despite its overtly electronic dance overtone. It’s the most “upbeat” song despite lyrics like “I don’t care go on and tear me apart, I don’t care if you do” but wow does Martin sing powerfully here. It’s a great song and is sure to get heavy spins on radio.

“O” is thankfully not a song about Oprah Winfrey and opens with a beautiful piano but more or less continues in the same vein as the rest of the album with Martin singing aimlessly this time about birds. This song too abruptly ends and goes silent for about three minutes until the church choir comes back.

Oddly enough, one of the best songs, “Ghost Story” is saved for the special Target exclusive release.

If anything give the band props for finding new direction and trying something different. It certainly doesn’t sound like the Coldplay we’re used to hearing. The new album definitely tries to find the emotional depth that earlier albums like A Rush of Blood to the Head and X&Y brought with songs like “The Scientist” “Clocks” and “What If” but it fails to offer great melodies and lofty vocals. None of the new songs have the tearful jerk that “Fix You” generates, ironically, a song Martin also wrote for Ms. Paltrow.

Ghost Stories is soft rock at best but probably falls more in line with Easy Listening though core fans of the group may have a hard time doing just that. It’s not a bad album but on the list of Coldplay albums it ranks dead last. Perhaps in time the songs’ intricacies might emerge from some of the muck, it’ll sure be interesting to see how the band handles these live and what songs they choose to represent the album on tour.

We’re all human and every single one of us carries our home life into our day jobs at one point or another. Mr. Martin is no different and is in an enviable position and a career that demands he wears his emotions on his sleeve.

This album reeks of heart-wrenching lost love but don’t expect a lot of airplay for Ghost Stories. However, Coldplay’s sixth studio album does give girls and boys going through their own break-ups an entire album to put on repeat instead of one song, a la, REM’s “Everybody Hurts.”

Grade: C-

Written By: AndrewT

Album Review: Rush ReDiscovered Vinyl Box Set

What a great and overall satisfying purchase the Rush ReDiscovered Vinyl box set is of the iconic band’s first album.

Sure it would be any collector’s dream, and even more so the ultimate Rush fan, if the contents in this limited edition release commemorating the band’s 40th anniversary album, were authentic from the past. That of course would costs thousands.

But packaged nicely for a mere $35 (Amazon just jacked up their price to $41 – meaning they just added the “free” shipping costs into the price) inside a sturdy cardboard box with the original Rush logo from the first album, is of course a record pressed on 200g audio grade vinyl using the Direct Metal Mastering process, the original Moon Records jacket art, promo photos of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and John Rutsey, and perhaps the best item of interest is the complete family tree of Rush.

Rush can be traced back to 1965 starting with the band The Guilde which included Rutsey and the tree of Rush moves forward through more bands you’ve never heard of and some only the hard-core Rush fan would know. Rutsey and Lifeson united in 1968 with The Lost Cause, then founded another band before forming Rush with Jeff Jones, who in fact even Wikipedia lists as a member of Rush. The original lineup of Rush fans all know and love formed in 1968, before adding a fourth member in Lindy Young and then well, you’ll have to pick up the box set to learn the rest. Do you know who Gerry Fielding is?

Listening to Rush on the newly minted vinyl and comparing to the regular Mercury Records release in the same format does reveal some audible differences. Primarily, the new record is crisper but don’t expect to hear previously unheard guitar chords, solos or extended playing like the newly remastered Vapor Trails offered.

Rush ReDiscovered is a great way to listen to that first Rush album again for the first time. Sure, it’s totally the 70s with the familiar guitar sound of that decade but it certainly rocks hard enough it’s not your father’s music from the 50s or 60s.

Listen to “Working Man” and it’s obvious why the band found success. The little heard “Here Again” registering in longer than the seven minute epic that is “Working Man” is a well-crafted song that meshes a melodically slow paced rhythm with passionate vocals by Lee and a memorable guitar chord and fantastic solo by Lifeson. “Before and After” brings that heartwarming intro before the band starts rocking and how can “In the Mood” not arouse a smile since it’s really the only song about women the band ever recorded – OK, maybe “Closer to the Heart” deserves some romantic love here but not nearly in the same vein.

The standout on this album is a young Lifeson. Perhaps it’s just hindsight but it’s obvious the man has talent and was going places whether or not Rush succeeded as they did. Lifeson would have been well-known in the world of rock whether as a soloist along the lines of Eric Johnson or Joe Satriani or in another band.

Overall, the Rush ReDiscovered set blows the spine off the $100 Clockwork Angels Limited Edition Package which had a 5000 limited-release pressing and is still available on the Rush Backstage website. The ReDiscovered box set is supposedly limited addition as well but there’s nothing on the box indicating how many or the numbered edition.

Don’t be surprised if the ReDiscovered Box set becomes common with other bands. Certainly Rush could do likewise with every one of their albums and fans no doubt would gobble them up.

Grade: A

Written By: AndrewT