The Problem with Keane…
Strangeland is the fourth release from English pop group Keane, released through Island Records. Having not been exceptionally familiar with all of Keane’s back catalogue, when offered to review this new record, I went into it happily, with an open mind. They had one big track that I could really recall from about 2004 called Somewhere Only We Know, a soppy power ballad that begged for radio play. For a band that label themselves as ‘alternative rock’, there was very little in that track which seemed ‘alternative’ or ‘rocky’. However, ‘a lot can happen in eight years, and it is only one track’, I told myself.
Let me tell you now, with no question; nothing happened in the last eight years. Keane’s new release Strangeland is 100%
awful piano power ballad.
The record opens with dreamy vocals and synthy beats before a big piano kicks in. Yep. This is still a Keane record. Prepare, ladies and gentlemen, for a whole lot of nothing to happen. The track You Are Young is a grand marching pop ballad, exactly like you’d expect. It’s followed up by equally boring Silenced By The Night. Now don’t get too shocked by this, but the track actually opens with a predictable chord progression on a piano and vocals with far too much reverb. And if we look at the next track, Disconnected, we get, surprise surprise, more of the same! Pianos and predictable vocals and chorus hooks. Are you beginning to see a pattern in this record?
In the second half, we discover that once again, nothing is happening. Black Rain is a 4 minute long dreary, clichéd piece of nothing displaying nothing different from the rest of the record. Band member Tom Chaplain seemed to think that the previous release was “self-indulgent” and that this record sounds a lot like earlier Keane. From this I can deduce two things-firstly, that Perfect Symmetry must have somehow been less interesting than Strangeland and secondly, that I would despise earlier Keane.
Neon River takes a vague departure from what we’ve heard previously on the record, leading with a synthesizer, or should I say an old monophonic Nokia phone, rather than a piano. The distinctly 80’s hooks and monotonous synth-lines sound like they’ve escaped from a long forgotten Rick Astley record. Album closer, Sea Fog, doesn’t bring any closure to the record, rather leaves me wondering why on earth the band decided to record, more or less, the same track twelve times.
Keane may remain true to their older work, churning out ballad after ballad. Alas this renders Strangeland dull and unimaginative, a record that I find myself wanting to avoid at all costs. Those looking for a deep musical experience look elsewhere, those wanting to fall asleep due to boredom, step right up.