Keane ‘Strangeland’- Delicious melodies though a tad predictable
My favourite British pop songsters are back with a new album and they sound happier than ever! ‘Strangeland’ as it is called is a weird title because there is nothing strange about these tunes. It actually sounds more like a return to the lush melodies of their fantastic debut ‘Hopes And Fears’. That is not to say that this is necessarily a step backwards. Here is why.
On first listen, the album sounds like a complete return to their roots. But after a few listens, it seems like most of the songs here are silent nods to bands and artists that they possibly admire. The most obvious one is ‘Silenced By The Night’ where I think pretty much every portion of it sounds like U2 circa 2004 viz. the tinkling and chiming ‘City Of Blinding Lights’. In fact I can totally picture in my head, Bono and the boys covering this one in concert. There is also ‘You Are Young’ which is a lovely, very U2-ey opener. Then there is the song ‘Black Rain’ which is definitely new territory for Keane where they sound more like Radiohead, to the point where Tom’s voice could be mistaken for Thom’s in some parts. But to me it doesn’t feel like a blatant rip-off, more like an inspired salute to the alternative rock veterans. Another one is ‘Neon River’ which reminds me of The Killers, in a good way. Call it coincidence that they too have in the past had a similarly titled ‘Neon Tiger’, not that the two songs are even remotely the same! The similarities lie mainly in the synth usage and the fact that I can picture Brandon Flowers covering this one. The last one reminding me of other artists is ‘The Starting Line’ which sounds a little bit like Oasis, particularly Noel Gallagher’s material. Nevertheless, it is yet another great track here.
There are also other tracks which sound as brilliant and less obviously inspired. For example: The nostalgia-drenched ‘Sovereign Light Cafe’ which is melodic as heck, fast-paced and absolutely gorgeous. It is surely one of my favourites on this album, a classic sing-along that only Keane do best; ‘Disconnected’ which has Tom conspicuously reaching for his low register and going high again in the extremely catchy and memorable chorus; the totally fun rockers, ‘On The Road’ and ‘Day Will Come’; ‘In Your Own Time’, a nice commentary on the sombre state of affairs in the world today (despite some cheesy lyrics) and finally a dreamy mellow closer called ‘Sea Frog’ which is somewhat reminiscent of the silky smooth closer of 2008’s ‘Perfect Symmetry’. The only song that I do not enjoy as much on here is ‘Watch How You Go’. Otherwise, I really like this album. It has a little bit of everything… bits of ‘Hopes And Fears’ and ‘Under The Iron Sea’ mixed in with the synthesizer sounds of ‘Perfect Symmetry’ along with a few new sounds as well, albeit inspired by other bands. No way is it groundbreaking stuff. It is actually Keane playing it safe in their comfort zone. I still recommend it if you are a lover of melodious, anthemic, feel-good music. Rating: 4 / 5