Keane - Strangeland (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
KEANE’S Strangeland is an album that, by their own admission, marks the sound of a band maturing while attempting to take stock of the sometimes fraught journey that has got them to this position. It’s a very good listen, if sometimes a little over earnest.
Songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley candidly states that the band took time over the recording of it, creating one song at a time and allowing the vibe from one inform the other. Hence, it has a very coherent feel to it too.
The Keane trademarks are there… from Tom Chaplin’s distinct, emotive vocals to the piano/synth sound that is stripped free from guitars. The powerhouse choruses are intact, too, born from the often slow-building approach of the song structures.
But there’s more here to recall the balladry of Keane’s debut Hopes & Fears LP than some of their more progressive recent material on Perfect Symmetry and especially the Night Train EP (which showed real diversity).
It’s a safe return more than an explosive one but one that’s high on melody and crowd-pleasing, stadium-filling moments.
Lead single Silenced By The Night, for instance, has an energy and a emotional impact that’s hard not to get behind (as well as a vaguely Hall & Oates feel), while forthcoming release Disconnected marries catchy melodies with a shimmering, sing-along chorus.
On The Road, meanwhile, motors along like a driving anthem in waiting, recalling the stadium sweep of a Coldplay standard or even a U2 one, as does the slow-building Neon River.
If those tracks are the big moments and the easy choice for album favourites, then Keane’s ability to craft a ballad that avoids the need for cheesy sentiments while delivering its soul-searching sentiments is also evident at several other points.
Watch How You Go bears an almost McCartney-esque vibe about it, while The Starting Line wears its insecurities on its sleeve in endearing fashion, serving as much as a thank you to the fans who have stayed with them through thick and thin as well as a poignant story about remaining loyal in its own right.
Black Rain, meanwhile, combines a haunted opening with an energised back-beat that threatens to but never gets going, leaving you thirsting for more yet equally impressed with its falsetto chorus.
And Sea Fog brings the album to a close with a sobering piano-based ballad that’s moody, imagery laden and typically emotionally resonant. It recalls the majesty of past Keane works such as Bedshaped.
Strangeland may not change what you think you already know about Keane – and is a serious piece of work for much of the time – but for all of its familiar elements it will please the long-term fans and is a welcome return from a band that continues to appreciate and struggle with the size of its fame. Their earnestness gives them a very human quality.
Download picks: Silenced By The Night, Disconnected, On The Road, The Starting Line, Neon River, Sea Fog