Review Summary: Keane’s sophomore effort is one that will not soon be forgotten
Keane’s second album is like a dream. The opening minutes ensnare you in an epic, tumbling-down-the-rabbit-hole type of atmosphere. From there you are tossed about, carelessly, as you twist and turn through the spiraling effects created by the tangible emotion and the variety of instrumentation. The album captures the mind and takes it on a journey; one that is mysterious and unexplainable, yet oddly familiar. So kick back and let the music take you away, because now the room is spinning, the day is breaking in…
Welcome to Under the Iron Sea
The entire experience starts with “Atlantic”, which is easily the most visually stimulating piece of music Keane has ever created. The song also harbors mystical lyrics and haunting vocals that leave you very little choice but to keep listening…to keep following the pathway that they have laid out for you; an audible landscape of passion and beauty that is so unparalleled in soft rock today that it truly feels like you are dreaming
. A combination of low, attractive sounding key strokes and dissonant percussion eventually combine with Chaplin’s effortless falsetto serenades to wrap you up in a dense musical ambience. The perfect album opener, “Atlantic” beckons the listener while standing on its own as one of Under the Iron Sea
’s strongest tracks.
From there, it is just a matter of floating along with the music. It is a relatively effortless listen, because the album captures you not only with its curiously enigmatic sound, but simultaneously with its accessibility. Under the Iron Sea
is at its best when it plays to the atmosphere it established right off the bat. For instance, the breathtaking “A Bad Dream” thrives on a simple drum beat and loads of synthesizers. Chaplin’s vocals and thoughtful lyrics manage to take care of the rest:
Why do I have to fly
Over every town up and down the line?
I'll die in the clouds above
And you that I defend, I do not love
This is also the case in some of the album’s more upbeat moments, like “The Frog Prince” and “Put It Behind You.” The aforementioned atmosphere is diverse enough within itself that it doesn’t rely on every song maintaining the same pace. In other words, each song doesn’t need to be a ballad for the album to retain its unity and overall tone. For instance, “Broken Toy” takes an almost danceable beat and funk-style to give Under the Iron Sea
one of its few “cheery” sounding moments on what is primarily a dark album. The changes in tempo and style, while very different from the record’s norm, actually manage to contribute to the flow rather than take away. This is where the true magic of this album exists, in its ability to start, stop, turn, and twist in every way imaginable without sacrificing its rhythm. This is also illustrated by the completely instrumental title track “The Iron Sea”, which is both ominous and utterly awe-inspiring. Of course, these statements take nothing away from the more standard, straight-up ballads on this record, as “Atlantic” and “A Bad Dream” really do represent some of the album’s best moments. Under the Iron Sea
rolls on all cylinders, for the most part, with very few missteps. However, they do exist and they cause the album to temporarily break character. Although very popular, “Is It Any Wonder” doesn’t comfortably fit in with the rest of the album and thus feels like a piece of the puzzle that the band “jammed in there” to make it fit. “Crystal Ball” suffers a similar fate, but to a lesser extent. Both of these songs are solid tracks that made outstanding singles, but they stand slightly out of line when compared to the remarkable soundtrack-like flow created by Under the Iron Sea
As a whole, Keane’s sophomore effort is one that will not soon be forgotten. It combines all of the band’s greatest talents with a central theme and unifying purpose that propels the songs to work as one cohesive whole. More than anything, it truly takes hold of your attention and allows you to drift. Whether or not you drift through the music itself or your own thoughts and memories is not important, it is the opportunity to escape that this provides. As the light-hearted piano notes close out the album, you may find that even though you are back where you started, it was the journey along the way that made Under the Iron Sea
a truly unique experience.
Your castle hollow and cold
You've wandered so far
From the person you are
Let go brother, let go