The Hardest Part: Coldplay's Ghost Stories - By Volume

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ghost stories

The Hardest Part: Coldplay’s Ghost Stories

After Mylo Xyloto's bombast, Chris Martin shrinks into himself. Author: on May 29, 2014
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Ghost Stories is the first Coldplay album that is not meant for me. I have moved with this band from their earlier sensitivity, through ambitious notions of space and time, past an expansion of musical and (as proposed) cultural horizons. Mylo Xyloto found me at a point where music and music writing were the only things I could safely hook myself onto, midway through eighteen months of unemployment and intertwined depression. In this light, I suppose I should question whether the band have coincidentally moved in synchronisation with my life or, in some odd way, orchestrated aspects of it. I’m hesitant to ascribe such importance within my personal development to a band like Coldplay – so devastatingly uncool that they once named a track “Ode to Deodorant” – but only because I have the same pretensions of sophistication that most people battle when they hear a song like “Every Teardrop” and their muscles start moving to the sound of simplicity.

Ghost Stories breaks this succession of reassuring Coldplay-shaped shadows on the pavements of cities I’ve walked through. 2014 finds me consciously and ecstatically coupled, tugged by the hand to one side, witnessing Chris Martin’s last odes to Gwyneth Paltrow from afar. A part of me feels cheated. At university, after a particularly traumatic night which resulted in the loss of a tooth, a girlfriend, a reputation and a pool cue, I used X&Y as my hiding place to crawl into. “I think of you / I haven’t slept” would’ve done some good back then, Mr. Martin, but where were you? Busy making shoegaze tracks and exploring your lower register. I can even imagine how “A Sky Full Of Stars” might have affected me in quiet moments of reflection post-graduation where I missed the one person who was my refuge during the final few months of my degree. It surely would have been another teardrop in an ill-advised waterfall of reasons to keep clinging to the lifeboat, in spite of (or because of?) its emptiness.

But now, I have to stand over Ghost Stories and wonder what it can mean beyond the four walls of Chris Martin’s house. His house has always been a very important place for Coldplay; whether he was pine-ing for a cabin, threatening to burn it down, or transforming it into a palace, it always remained a place of refuge. This break-up, though, isn’t communicated as a storm, and Martin doesn’t need shelter from it; instead, it feels as though the slow dissolve of an emotional connection took place entirely in the confines of rooms where he spent late night watching TV. Closing track “O”, in fact, ventures outside and feels like solace as a result. This is claustrophobic stuff, and I feel like I’m standing on Chris Martin’s front lawn, looking in through his living room window at an unfulfilled love in its somber, accepting last days. I think I might be underestimating the size of Chris Martin’s house (and front lawn, for that matter) – although it’s testament to Ghost Stories that it at least manages to reduce Martin and Paltrow’s relationship to these cozy images. There’s not a red carpet in sight.

But when “Ink” – a song whose subject matter of tattoos feels as strange as Martin writing about graffiti and “the park” on Mylo Xyloto – finds its point, it resonates in a different way. “All I know / Is that I’m lost whenever you go,” he sings. “All I know is that I love you so / So much that it hurts.” The songs on Ghost Stories are insular, taking place in different corners of the same house, lending little to each other apart from this overarching sense of love. “Leave a light on,” Martin begs on the Bon Iver-(ahem)-influenced “Midnight”, and it illuminates the real crux of Ghost Stories.

But still, it’s not meant for me. I doubt, even, that it’s meant for other heartbreak victims. I doubt, even more still, that it’s meant for Guy Berryman, Will Champion, or Jonny Buckland. It feels like a crutch constructed from numbed versions of painful memories. Remember what I said about my likely reaction to “A Sky Full Of Stars” had I been mourning a lost love when Avicii first forced it through my eardrums? How I said it would be the last reason I needed to push the rest of the world away and hold on for dear life to the disappearing? I always did feel like I had a lot in common with Chris Martin.

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