Music

Coldplay: Kaleidoscope EP

Photo: Julia Kennedy

This is Coldplay in 2017, saying "hi" to the mainstream by pandering to pop, and actually managing to do a not-half-bad job of it.


Coldplay

Kaleidoscope EP

Label: Parlophone
US Release Date: 2017-07-14
UK Release Date: 2017-07-14
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

It 's hard to convey with words just what a relief Kaleidoscope EP's first track is. It is called "All I Can Think About Is You", and the importance of its presence in the modern-day Coldplay canon cannot be overstated. It's a big song, not far from the slow-burn sentimental-epic word that was so common among Coldplay's first few albums. If you think "Trouble", or "The Scientist", or "Fix You", you're in the neighborhood.

That said, you throw a dash of Ghost Stories into that mix, and you end up with something exquisite. Most of Ghost Stories eschewed most of the pomp and melodrama of typical Coldplay balladry in favor of something more grounded, and that's how "All I Can Think About Is You" starts, with a very straightforward and steady guitar-bass-drums groove. Granted, that quiet groove doesn't last all that long, but the slow build that the song takes into bombast actually feels earned, as elements slowly layer on top of each other until the whole song is a swirl of instruments and Chris Martin's simple, pleading vocal.

This is a sound that we haven't heard from Coldplay in a long time, maybe as far back as 2005's X&Y, and it is a sound so welcoming and warm that it's easy to forget why the release of Kaleidoscope EP inspired such trepidation in the first place: That is, a cool 40% of it was already known to be pretty awful.

Actually, "pretty awful" might be a little strong for Chris Martin's collaboration with the Chainsmokers; it is admittedly kind of catchy. It is also utterly disposable in the way that the Chainsmokers clearly aspire to, its lyrics an ode to the hookup out of the mouth of a man who is 40 years old, as told through the recitation of a list of famous stories and characters. It is as banal as it is inescapable, the type of song you'll sing along to while hating yourself for singing along. The version here is the misleadingly-titled "Tokyo Remix", a live version that makes the song sound muddier and adds a whole bunch of audience sing-a-long vocals, but is otherwise identical to the original.

The other track we knew about well in advance is "Hypnotized", which has been around since March. Everything that "All I Can Think About Is You" does right, "Hypnotized" does wrong. It's a slab of slow, meaningless treacle that sticks around for an unwieldy six-and-a-half minutes. Where "All I Can Think About Is You" used a minimal set of lyrics to put the focus on the instrumentation, "Hypnotized" can't stop talking without actually saying anything.

The two songs that are left are fine-if-forgettable bits of non-album detritus. "Miracles (Someone Special)" is another song that tells its story through a list, this time a list of heroes that Chris Martin's dad (apparently) told him about long ago, complete with a dropped-in guest verse from Big Sean that might not set the world on fire, but isn't nearly as bad or awkward as it could have been. This is Coldplay in 2017, saying "hi" to the mainstream by pandering to pop, and actually managing to do a not-half-bad job of it. "A L I E N S" is a collaboration with Brian Eno that can't quite find a groove in its 5/4 time signature, but whose subject matter -- the struggle of refugees -- is worthwhile. "A L I E N S" is Coldplay as a critical darling, a laudable attempt at artistry out of place on an EP filled with all manner of straightforward ear candy. It seems worth mentioning, however, that proceeds from "A L I E N S" go toward the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, an organization that assists refugees on the Mediterranean. Their heart is in the right place.

Kaleidoscope EP is one of those EPs with no mission statement, a collection of oddities that never would have fit on the unfailingly upbeat (if shallow) A Head Full of Dreams. There's no story to be told, just a small collection of tunes, some of which work beautifully, some of which fall utterly flat. It's been a year and a half since A Head Full of Dreams, and if you're dying for new Coldplay, this will scratch the itch. Even if you're not, though, there are one or two songs here that are absolutely worth your time.

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image