Coldplay, "Music of the Spheres" (Parlophone)

There's no defending the lyrics on this new Coldplay album. In one song from "Music of the Spheres," which carries some sort of overarching concept about the citizens of a distant galaxy, frontman Chris Martin actually sings: "We're only human/ But we're capable of kindness/ So they call us humankind." In another he compares himself to a broken record that's "not playing right," then delivers the same line in reverse.

A collaboration with hitmaking producer Max Martin featuring pop stars BTS and Selena Gomez, "Spheres" has been described as a transparent commercial ploy at a tough moment for old guys with guitars. In reality, their ninth album is no more — or less — on the nose than Coldplay's earlier albums.

"Humankind" and the vaguely Weeknd-ish "Higher Power" are zippy electro-rock tracks with sharp hooks and lots of crisp digital detailing; the mellow, love-dazed "Biutyful" pitches up Chris Martin's vocals to an unintelligible chipmunk squeak — not a bad move given that he turns out to be telling somebody, "I hope they name you a rocket and take you for a ride for free." He unloads more declarations of interstellar devotion in "My Universe," the cut with BTS, which recently gave Coldplay its first No. 1 pop hit since 2008.

More intriguing is the Gomez duet "Let Somebody Go," an undulating white-soul ballad with big Bruce Hornsby energy that sort of puts the lie to the whole happy-sellout idea. Ditto the stomping hard-rock "People of the Pride," which has fuzzy guitars, vaguely political lyrics and a dark and jazzy horn chart sure to remind you of Coldplay's old heroes Radiohead. It's by far the album's worst song, and the one that feels most unshaped by Max Martin's touch. Careful what you wish for.

MIKAEL WOOD, Los Angeles Times

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