Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Strangeland by Keane

Copyright 2012, Universal- Island Records

Review by George Neame

Having established a loyal following and confirmed a place as a well-respected pop-rock band, the phrase ‘one step forward, two steps back’ can be applied to many groups’ albums as they attempt to change their sound to no real success or appreciation. In the case of Keane, however, the step forward with a new album brings with it two steps backwards that allow their most dedicated fans to breathe a large sigh of relief as they make a triumphant return to the piano-led tunes that dominated the pre-‘Perfect Symmetry’ era. Four years on from their last full studio album,‘Strangeland’ proves worth the wait, Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin returning from side project Mt Desolation (also worth a listen, with a similar acoustic Americana feel as Gary Lightbody’s ‘rival’ side-project Tired Pony) to create an album that ranges from epic singles to piano-driven ballads.

Single ‘Silenced By the Night’ is a prime example of the former, progressing gradually from keyboard-filled verses to a huge crescendo during the chorus. The slow-burning but haunting ‘Black Rain’ is another highlight that makes use of Keane’s infamous synthesisers and whilst often predictable, most songs feature the mainstream hooks and recurring tunes that made Keane so successful in the earlier part of the ‘00s, comparable to the likes of Snow Patrol and Coldplay who have clearly latched on to the winning formula. Even with these bands to match up to though, there are some songs that are uniquely Keane, closer ‘Sea Fog’ providing an echoing and chillingly heartfelt reminder of what the four-piece can do given a bit of time, a top-quality producer and a real desire to create songs that touch the soul and stir the mind, the lyrics being Chaplin and Oxley’s ‘priority’ with this most recent album.

Star Rating: ****

Strangeland by Portsmouth Point on Grooveshark

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