Keane - Night Train EP
Review by Jack Foley
KEANE frontman Tom Chaplin claims that the songs that comprise their one-off Night Train EP will enable fans and non-fans to see the band in a different light.
It’s tribute to the quality of these songs that he’s right. A collection of eight tracks that were recorded in various studios during the Perfect Symmetry world tour, they cleverly embrace old-school Keane values with a more varied sound.
This is marked by genre-busting collaborations with Somali/Canadian rapper K’Naan, who crops up on EP highlights Stop For A Minute and the Rocky-inspired Looking Back, as well as with Japanese baile funk MC Tigarah.
There’s a fuller sense of instrumentation as well, which embodies the Keane piano sound along with guitar influences and a world sound that takes in flamenco, hip-hop and African and Japanese influences.
It’s the sign of a band that continues to grow, continues to push itself, and continues to appeal in the broadest sense. Keane are shaping up to be every bit as big and as durable as the momentum built by their first two albums always suggested they would become.
Admittedly, not every experiment works on the LP. Tigarah’s presence on the hopelessly kitsch Ishin Denshin (You’ve Got To Help Yourself) feels like a cheesy karaoke backing track that seems to be catering more for the Japanese tours and market.
While a track like Your Love sounds more like an album filler than the sort of offering that should be among the five other standout tracks on this EP, albeit featuring a rare lead vocal from the band’s Ivor Novello-winning songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley.
Album opener House Lights, meanwhile, is just a brief instrumental mood-setter that’s suitably atmospheric but not really a song.
Fortunately, though, the EP is armed with enough big-hitters to make this a compulsory purchase and a collection that’s capable of broadening Keane’s appeal still further.
Back In Time, with its euphoric synth charges, distinct Chaplin vocals, and emphatic chorus is a great way to break out the vocals and ensure that Keane have your attention.
But Stop For A Minute is just a feelgood anthem in waiting, a bombastic crowd-pleaser packed with mighty beats, “whoa who” vocal surges, top-drawer piano chords and one of the most sing-along choruses in Keane’s history. You’ll be shouting “if I stop for a minute I think about things I really don’t want to know” from the rooftops, while K’Naan’s rap towards the end is a perfect accompaniment. It’s an empowering record.
There’s a distinct Coldplay feel about the opening riffs of Clear Skies, which effortlessly unfold into a flamenco influenced pop song of the highest calibre, complete with snappy finger-click beats, falsetto drifting vocals and a really rich sonic backdrop that just gets more and more rousing.
Yes, the Rocky theme that ushers listeners into Looking Back does at first sound extremely cheesy, but it works well and is easy to embrace almost immediately. The mix of sung Chaplin vocals and K’Naan’s rap also works well for a second time, lending the song genre-busting appeal.
Final track My Shadow, meanwhile, underlines just how good a ballad band Keane can be… a slow builder that is beautifully composed with the pianos of old taking centre stage. It quietly creeps into your sub-conscious to deliver a truly memorable finale and underline the brilliance of this particular EP.
In short, you need to get this!
Download picks: Back In Time, Stop For A Minute, My Shadow, Looking Back