Mega-selling East Sussex band Keane are back after a four year absence from the limelight with their new album Strangeland. Their last album Perfect Symmetry (2008) provided hit singles and also surprised critics by expanding from the simple piano led soft rock to be a more intense and twisted synth-pop sound. However, we’re afraid to say that Strangeland doesn’t quite reach the heights of Perfect Symmetry. Sure, it’s got its moments – lead single Silenced By The Night is sure to become an anthem of the UK’s festivals this summer, and Sovereign Light Cafe is as good a pop song as the band have ever written, but it just feels like it lacks the spark that made the likes of The Iron Sea and Hopes and Fears so special to so many people.
The major theme surrounding this album seems to be the concept of moving from home and the nostalgia surrounding ones childhood, especially on Sovereign Light Cafe – lyrics such as “we were friends and lovers and clueless clowns” are melancholy at best, and contrast the rather up-tempo music quite wonderfully. Black Rain is different to your normal Keane track – Tom Chaplin’s vocals ring loud and clear, with each note delivered with impeccable pitch and timing, and fuzzy piano sounds and booming bass make it sound like a lost Radiohead rarity.
Expectations of Strangeland were high – super-producer Dan Grech (Radiohead, The Vaccines, Lana Del Rey) has been behind the dials on some of recent years best releases, and with him taking control of Strangeland people were expecting a high-energy album along the lines of some of the more alternative tracks from Hopes & Fears. However, we’re afraid that it disappoints – Strangeland lacks the anthemic qualities of Perfect Symmetry and fails to hit the sweet spot on a number of occasions. It’s an album without a real standout single – Sovereign Light Cafe is about as good as it gets, leaving the listener wondering when the album will really start to get going.
All that aside, it’s clear to even the most reluctant of listeners that Strangeland is a well constructed, touching and nostalgic album that consolidates their position as one of Britain’s biggest bands, even if it fails to expand Keane’s musical horizons. It’s got a few things going for it – the melodies are mellifluous and the ever-present synth and piano sounds bring the songs up to the next level. It’s undeniable that the album is worth a listen, and with it being set to top the charts on Sunday it can’t be denied that the British public still love a bit of Keane.