Review Summary: A bad dream.
I have recently noticed a trend that runs a line between Noel Gallagher and insanity. The theory may be sketchy in places, but can basically get going anywhere. You can notice it in Bloc Party’s resentment to be seen as the band that created Silent Alarm
and to have electro-fun instead, which may or may not be related to Gallagher’s labelling them as “Indie ***”. You might be able to trace Damon Albarn’s indignant reaction to Britpop in his latest offbeat attempts at Chinese theatre. Jay-Z even ended up performing “Wonderwall” live after a feud between the two parties that essentially went nowhere. Of course, these moot antics would be a challenge to relate to Noel Gallagher, let alone one another, but how about this to seal the deal: experiencing Keane’s free release of “Spiralling” made me realise, amidst attempts to prove Gallagher wrong, that the “three biggest wankers in a band” had accidentally transported themselves to the 80s.
On listening to Perfect Symmetry
, however, I can confirm that “Spiralling” gave away absolutely nothing. With its original release, you were urged to detest its unbearable 80s idolization, but also embrace it as a guilty pleasure. As it comes opening Perfect Symmetry
, things have changed. The wild Ooo!
s are subdued, steel drums replace the original carefree synth sounds, and the song’s saving grace – its chorus – becomes deflated. Even the topic-confused bridge becomes dirge, the lines Did you wanna be the president? Did you wanna start a war? Did you wanna be in love?
are politically and romantically comical, and certainly not worthy of the extension they garner. Whether or not the listener had doted upon the original radio release, this restrain already begins Perfect Symmetry
with a crack.
Actually, “Spiralling” gave away absolutely nothing not because it lied concerning the nostalgic keyboard groove, but more so because everything on the band’s third effort has glaring spaces that are begging to be filled with music. There’s something on title track “Perfect Symmetry”, an Abba abducted fan-tune, that unfortunately needs revising. As the cries of Wrap yourself around me
echo their intention to be the song’s – the album’s - focal point, you wonder what exactly is being differentiated. Aside from the no-guitar, distinguishable-piano attributes, all that “Perfect Symmetry” can do for Keane is sound strikingly, hauntingly like an Abba revival. It’s a tool that oozes with perplexing smoothness, but aside from its shining surface meanders into repeated nothingness.
The sad thing is that this backwards trend could be as fun as Tom Chaplin wishes it would be if only it wasn’t so watered down. The album has, aside from its quick-to-wane synth-pop novelty, no role to play. It’s moments such as the cold cries of You don’t see me
in, well, “You Don’t See Me”, that Perfect Symmetry
proves to be its own personality crisis. The droning four minutes manage to mash up the crushing noises of Under The Iron Sea
and the ballad-esque bleakness of debut Hopes & Fears
. Unfortunately, Keane seem to be unable to re-enact these forays appropriately and eventually show up their third self-described ‘fun’ sound as shallow; it hides behind what they know, and adds in ridiculous tricks. Even “Love Is The End” sounds like a decadent interpretation of how the two previous closers sounded. Once more around the block, however, the hopeless love ballad is painful for the wrong reasons – the disjointed blend of sluggish drumming and lame piano chords create a sound too sleazy to be even remotely beautiful. This is what troubles Perfect Symmetry
; when it matters most, Keane remember themselves in all the wrong ways and try to fathom it into something far too inoffensive.
has a saving grace in “You Haven’t Told Me Anything”, delving into a spacey mood that isn’t compromised by being either over-the-top or untouched. This balance remains unmatched throughout the ten tracks that surround it – whether it is the toning down of the sing-along “Spiralling” or the disappointingly emotionless “Love Is The End”, there is no cold, creepy, or (much to their anguish), all-encompassing world to delve into. Sadly and simply put, the three “biggest wankers in a band” don’t have the quirky upbringing they want, and it shows. Tom Chaplin can hope all he wants, but Perfect Symmetry
will never hold the self-proclaimed ‘pop’ sing-a-longs it so nearly could.