Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Album Review: Keane - Strangeland

Keane - Strangeland

After a four year absence, the world's most famous piano recital band are back with their fourth studio album, Strangeland. Despite the time that's lapsed since 2008's Perfect Symmetry, Keane seem to remain as popular as ever, with Strangeland becoming their fifth consecutive number one album (the Night Train EP also hit #1) - a record only bettered by the Beatles.

So, is it any good? Well, the answer will rather depend on whether you're a fan of the quartet (guitarist Jesse Quin is now an official member of the band) or not. Eschewing the experimentation and 80's inspired electronica of Perfect Symmetry in favour of piao-led, radio-friendly pop, some critics have accused the band of 'scurrying back to their comfort zone'. And, there's no doubt that Strangeland is the album that millions of Keane fans were expecting after the global success of Hopes and Fears.

I'm less sure that Strangeland is as backwards a step than some believe. To me, it sounds like the band have learned over the last eight years how to make brilliant, melodic pop records and that Strangeland takes everything they've learnt and applies it to their unique sound last heard on Hopes and Fears. Watch How You Go takes over where We Might As Well Be Strangers left off, Day Will Come sounds like it was recorded at the Bend and Break sessions and the lovely Sea Fog closes the album in the mellow way that Bedshaped ends Hopes and Fears. And, with it's driving piano and catchy chorus, Disconnected is the natural successor to Somewhere Only We Know.

Featuring songs about the band's Sussex roots, the Times called Strangeland 'the album that Bruce Springsteen would have made if he was from Bexhill-on-Sea and not New Jersey'. Nowhere is this more true than on second single Sovereign Light Cafe - a perfect piece of Keane pop music which is destined to become an absolute favourite.

If you are looking for something less Keane-y then the deluxe version of the album features the unusual track The Boys and, oddly, the title track of the album itself.

I've been a huge Keane fan since day one and so, to me, they have never sounded better than this. Strangeland is effectively Hopes and Fears 2, albeit more mature, better produced and with a better selection of songs. Not a bad achievement.

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