“I’m ready for the pain,” Coldplay’s frontman sings on “Oceans.” “I’m ready for a change.”
Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced in March they were uncoupling after more than a decade of marriage, which intensified anticipation Coldplay might stray from its familiar formula on the band’s sixth album, “Ghost Stories.” The lyrics do suggest Martin’s trying to escape ghosts in his past, but he surrounds his singing with the digital drone of synthesizers and never digs too deep to describe his heartache. “Blood on the Tracks” this is not.
Instead, the band’s music remains appealing mostly for its surface sheen. Several arrangements on the nine-track set are intimate by arena-band standards, and the best sound like Martin singing in his bedroom. “Another’s Arms” offers a dreamy chorus for Bic wavers, and the band cranks it up on “A Sky Full of Stars,” which was co-produced by Avicii and has a thump and hook to please the club crowd.
Most of the album was created with producer Paul Epworth, best known for his Grammy- and Oscar-winning work with Adele, as well as Florence + the Machine and Foster the People. But Epworth doesn’t bring out the best version of Coldplay.
On “Ghost Stories,” there’s little piano, guitar or percussion, and there are few memorable melodies or surprises, which is why a discordant guitar note on “True Love” stands out. The soft focus of the words and music makes for sterile gauze, which is one way to treat a wounded heart.