, Coldplay's latest album, is really, really neither complicated nor thrilling. It transcends the category of “bath rock" mostly by leaving behind the second syllable. The album is a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy tank—a lavish, electric-powered, whirling vat of feelings. The guitars crouch behind the synths. The mood clings desperately to melancholy wistfulness throughout. The best-written songs—the looping intro, “Always in My Head,” the acoustic throwback “Oceans,” the piano-ballad finale “O”—scarcely have what a listener might recognize as a chorus.
This marks a minor departure for the band whose last album, Mylo Xyloto, was a pop-rock-opera that came dangerously close to fun. But every Coldplay album is a minor departure these days. Ever since X&Y, which even Coldplay’s die-hards will admit was a sugary turd, the band has lurched from stripped-down rock (Viva La Vida, a toe-tapping triumph of mid-tempo melodies), to twinkling pop on Mylo Xyloto, to this, an electronica meditation on the end of a relationship. You all know which one. Chris Martin’s marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow was evidently suffering as he wrote and recorded the album—“I think of you, I haven’t slept” is the first line and "Maybe one day I'll fly next to you, so fly on” is the last. The couple announced their break-up while the first single—the super-chill “Magic,” which might be my least favorite Coldplay single ever—wound its way through the charts.