Keane
Strangeland


3.0
good

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
May 3rd, 2012 | 71 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Get off the night train and hop back on the Keane train.

As all too many artists know, the fight to stay relevant is a real bitch. In an era where overnight sensations are at an all-time high, sustained success is fleeting. The internet has long replaced record stores, and the entire way we experience music has been overhauled in favor of possessing everything at your fingertips. Now more than ever, bands are feeling the heat to remind fans that they even exist. That pressure is applied double fold to groups already staving off extinction, such as the English piano rock band Keane. They made a rather flashy entrance with their first two albums, as Hopes & Fears and Under The Iron Sea garnered critical acclaim and kept rival artists like Coldplay on their toes. However, the drop-off following their impressive beginning was more than just noticeable - it was painful. Perfect Symmetry was a major departure in style, abandoning Keane’s moody atmospheres for something peppier and more in the vein of a standard 80’s synth-rock outfit. The reaction was lukewarm at best, and a significant portion of the fan base denounced the changes. To make matters worse, they followed up a two year wait by completing their character reversal via the hip-hop/indie blend of an EP, Night Train. Now it has been four years since they have released a full-length studio album, and for Keane’s sake, one can only hope that they have regained their footing.

In a way they have. The band has never sounded more like themselves, led by a rejuvenated-sounding Tom Chaplin and a return to smooth, simple piano-rock. ‘You Are Young’ comes as a sigh of relief, kicking Strangeland off not with a disco feel or rap verse, but with a steady drum beat and elegant pianos. It’s not the catchiest song in the world, but it is enough to convince you that Keane is done embarrassing themselves. With a soothing aura and gradual instrumental progression, it sets up the rest of the album rather fittingly. The two most immediate tracks follow, as ‘Silenced By The Night’ and ‘Disconnected’ both exude radio-accessible qualities and fan favorite potential. The former boasts a chorus so big that it threatens to burst right out of your speakers and come to life, while the latter has the most infectious melody that Keane has written since ‘A Bad Dream.’ There is nothing overtly impressive going on in the instrumental department here (or on the entire album, for that matter), but the chemistry that they were lacking on Perfect Symmetry and Night Train is back and more tangible than ever. It is their newfound groove that dictates Strangeland’s success, resulting in varied song structures, interesting lyrical concepts, and a cohesive feel that grips you from the start and refuses to let go.

Keane’s improvement may be most obvious in the beginning of Strangeland, but this is still a pretty consistent album across the board. ‘Watch How You Go’ has a Beatles circa Abbey Road feel to it, gently weaving in and out of graceful pianos, echoing backup hums, and subtle strings. Keane manages to create an intricate fabric here, even though all the barely noticeable moving pieces work together to form something that is simple and astounding at the same time. ‘Black Rain’ might be the most interesting song on Strangeland, dabbling in electronic backbeats that sound heavy and humid, but act as an experimental catalyst to Keane’s creative side. The song’s electronic foundation is joined by guitars so glimmering in their production that they almost sound like wind chimes, and eventually Chaplin’s falsetto reaches the perfect pitch to elevate ‘Black Rain’ to a level of ambience never achieved before by this band. As a rare moment of deviation, this is a track that stands out amongst the comparatively cookie-cutter song structures. With nary a bad track over its twelve song duration, Strangeland manages to make it all the way through without once falling flat – which may sound like a pat on the back for the special-ed kid in class, but it’s a start after such a lengthy period of disappointment following 2006’s Under The Iron Sea.

At this point you may be thinking that this is a triumphant return for Keane – but I feel inclined to warn you that a lot of work still needs to be done. Yes, Strangeland marks a revisit to the style that the band excels at, and it certainly has its memorable moments. However, for as hard as it tries to re-center the group’s focus, it doesn’t completely erase the stench left by Night Train. There also isn’t enough top tier material present to say that Keane has made a complete comeback. The return to their roots is evident, the chemistry is even there, but the songs just aren’t as intriguing as they used to be. Any long time fan of Keane can recall the way they felt when they heard the earnest and wistful melody to ‘Sunshine’ or the swirling, unpredictable turns of ‘Atlantic.’ Strangeland feels rather empty by comparison, as it seems that they have lost a little bit of the soul that gave songs like ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ the capability to soar high above the ground. For all of its good intentions, the album simply can’t compete with either of Keane’s first two efforts. To be blunt, the songs just aren’t as good. This band deserves credit for making all the right moves on paper, but it will still take a little more time for them to shake off all the rust.

Keane may be a victim of the internet (i.e. rapid musical consumption) age, but their rapid downfall can mostly be attributed to themselves. After alienating so many people with Perfect Symmetry and Night Train, we all knew that their road to recovery wouldn’t be easy. This definitely isn’t the album that will put them back on the same map as Coldplay, OneRepublic, Snow Patrol, and other titans of piano rock, but it is a healthy first step. They have thankfully severed whatever attachment they had to a hip-hop mainstream breakthrough, and they have also left dead decades where they belong: in the past. Strangeland is a good but not great album that will be enjoyed by fans of classic Keane, who at this point may reluctantly begin to put down their torches and pitchforks. If you have it in your heart to forgive them, this album is the perfect opportunity to get off the night train and hop back on the Keane train.



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user ratings (95)
Chart.
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2012


16780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pleasantly surprised, but not completely taken with this album either.

10 reviews to 200, man I'm getting too old for this

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2012


10543 Comments


"stangeland" in the second paragraph

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2012


16780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

goddammit. Willie...help.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2012


10543 Comments


still can't edit anything? arghghgh

LifeAsAChipmunk
May 2nd 2012


4854 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

So so band and so so album are so so so.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2012


16780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah pretty much

but so so with a step in the right direction

randomnames
May 2nd 2012


22 Comments


Third paragraph, wrong album title or wrong year?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2012


16780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Oops, should have been 2006

eyehategod
May 3rd 2012


1127 Comments


wolfe is great

Irving
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


7318 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review SS. One of your best that I've read in recent times - and you also clearly know your Keane =)

Digging: Portishead - Dummy

cracra4music
May 3rd 2012


1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Good Review. Excellent album. They're Back!

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


3472 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This came out already ? The two singles were okay, but they don't have that spark or emotion their first two albums had. I need to listen to this. Great review!

Digging: Amplifier - The Octopus

Tyrael
May 3rd 2012


20945 Comments


ugh this band

Digging: Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


16780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks Irving, cracra, insomniac

Tyrael actually kinda surprised you don't like them. They're only a stone's throw away from a lot of the indie-pop you like.

minty901
May 3rd 2012


2080 Comments


really like their second album. first one was good too. what ive heard of the ones after that just sounded like the killers

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


8387 Comments


Honestly surprised that they are still going.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


23964 Comments


the single is so terrible

Digging: Taylor Swift - 1989

Irving
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


7318 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Dude, just curious - did you get a promo copy or something? :D?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 3rd 2012


16780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Staff privileges ; )

bloc
May 3rd 2012


34992 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Crap

Digging: The Birthday Massacre - Superstition



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