Sunday, November 05, 2006

Music Review -- Under the Iron Sea by Keane

At one point I was buying any CD that anyone compared to Coldplay. The results ranged from good additions to my collection(The Doves, Clinic) to bad additions(Keane, Embrace). So, I bought their debut album Hopes and Fears without hearing any of their music. While the band is definitely talented, only a few songs combined solid songwriting with interesting music. Overall, Hopes and Fears was a sub-par and dry debut.

With their sophomore effort, Under the Iron Sea, the band stretches out and becomes more of a rock outfit. They still avoid guitars and their tunes are mostly piano based. There are two main changes between their two albums. The first is that there is much more depth in the construction of their new songs. Too often, Hopes and Fears felt like a basic pop album, despite the oblivious talent of the band’s members. The other change is a definitive move to create the U2 vibe of soaring hook laden choruses. This works on some songs, but not others.

To me the standout is Is It Any Wonder?, a great song that sounds like it should have been on U2’s Pop album. Tom Chaplin sings, “But now I think how I was wrong/ And you were laughing along/ And now I look a fool for thinking you were on, my side/ Is it any wonder I'm tired/ Is it any wonder that I feel uptight / Is it any wonder I don't know what's right.” These arena rock/Coldplay-like songs succeed when the lyrics are tight, but some like A Bad Dream border on goofiness.

Keane has created an album with some great moments. Unfortunately, I don’t think the band will hit its stride and craft truly creative music until they stop trying to be U2 or Coldplay. The good news is that Under the Iron Sea makes it sound like they are on their way. For now. at their best Keane is a more melodic and accessible Snow Patrol and at their worst they are an over hyped Something Corporate or The Fray.

2.25 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale.

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