Keane – 'Strangeland'
By Sharon O'Connell
If it does anything aside from promise to ‘shift units’ and fill festival fields with friendship-braceleted students on the lash, the fifth album by the boys from Battle for this reviewer underlines an already indisputable fact – that it’s entirely possible to be soppier than a saturated sponge and yet remain utterly unmoved by their music.
Keane are without a doubt highly accomplished songwriters with an ear for a propulsive piano coda, a sharp guitar hook and a rousing chorus, but fans of the subtle and intriguingly suggestive they are not. Neither are they probers of painfully true, existential and emotional depths – unless you judge Hallmark to be masters of overwhelmingly heartfelt expression. In which case, the nine-times platinum status (that’s 2.7 million copies sold) of Keane’s 2004 debut LP suggests that you are not alone.
Keane’s lyrical concerns here (change and constancy, friendship, self-discovery) fail to make an impact because the words float in a sugary dilution of Coldplay (with whom the band are creatively twinned in the same way as peas are partnered in a pod), ersatz latter-day Radiohead, 10CC and… Chris de Burgh (blame vocalist Tom Chaplin).
The self-aware appropriation of ’80s pop that was 2008’s ‘Perfect Symmetry’ is long gone and – aside from the glitchy, Thom Yorke-aping ‘Black Rain’ – they’ve reverted to vapid and ‘yearning’ soft-rock type. ‘Sovereign Light Cafe’ is a truly sickly singalong soaked in nostalgia, while ‘The Starting Line’ is so cheesy it reads like a challenge to both Take That and Dairy UK. Since ‘Strangeland’ (if only) lacks soul, sensuality and swing, we fail to see its point. That the Number One spot beckons is a given.