Release Date: May 8, 2012
Record label: Cherrytree Records / Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Keane's nostalgia-drenched fourth disc looks back to their mid-2000s heyday, when they were contenders for Coldplay's sad-rock throne. At times it's catchy, but its maudlin ballads and monochrome synth-pop production are also kind of dull. Listen to 'Strangeland':. Related • Photos: Random Notes.
Four albums in, Keane songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley shows no signs of adjusting to fame. His lyrics for Strangeland ache with nostalgia and regret, for simpler days and a time before responsibility. Perhaps if he took that responsibility less seriously, his songs wouldn't come across as platitudinous chapters in a self-help book, crammed with exhortations to "have faith in brighter days" and "don't hang your head 'til your distance is run", which Tom Chaplin delivers with customary gusto.
How strange can Britain’s buoyantly dramatic Keane be if the Tom Chaplin–led quartet is still pounding away on its grand pianos and howling woefully about busted romance and ruinous celebrity? Actually, in a relief from the Alan Parsons Project–like bombast of their Perfect Symmetry album (oy), the Keane ones have returned to the rich luster of their first album’s compositional craft and found youthful zeal, as opposed to weariness (“You Are Young”), hopeful emotionalism (“Silenced By the Night”) and cool confident melodies with effortlessly and theatrically arching bridges as their guide. If you’re looking for the quartet’s usual twist in its sobriety, there’s a Sondheim-ian feel to Keane’s particularly ardent brand of complex pop melancholy this time out to go with its new sense of directness. Tell the kids.
Keane's fourth outing trades in the officious electro-pop flourishes that peppered 2008's Perfect Symmetry for a more familiar approach. Closer in tone to 2006's Under the Iron Sea, some may find Strangeland's reliable mix of Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and "Sit Down"-era James to be a bit rote, but when it comes to crafting relatively safe, achingly melodic, and terminally sincere adult alternative rock songs, there are few groups as prodigious as the East Sussex quartet. Bolstered by a pair of stadium-ready singles in "Disconnected" and "Silence by the Night," both of which occur (in classic LP fashion) early on, Strangeland works best when it sticks to the formula, providing a hook, a line, and a sinker before landing the listener with the kind of colossal chorus that results in the frantic rolling up or down of car windows.
A stylistic step sideways was taken by Keane on 2008’s Perfect Symmetry, their last full-length album. Heralded by the exhilarating whoops and “woohs” of its first single “Spiralling”, Perfect Symmetry drew - for the most part dynamically—on ‘80s synth-pop, adding some fresh textures and an exciting sense of experimentation to the band’s material, sometimes dismissed as worthy-but-dull indie pop/rock in the Coldplay mould. From this perspective, the band’s new release Strangeland might seem like a backwards step, since it very much returns the group to the mode of chiming, mid-tempo piano rock established on Hopes and Fears (2004) and Under the Iron Sea (2006).
On which Keane reach that point that all bands reach around about their mid-thirties/fourth record. You know, they’ve done the “radical departure” album, they’ve done the EP with a guest rapper… and now they’ve remembered what people loved about them in the first place, and thought, “Fuck it, let’s just do what we’re good at”. So here is the ultra-Keane album, with tinkling, histrionic, arena-ready piano motifs™, soaring, emotive vocals™ and songs called ‘Day Will Come’, ‘In Your Own Time’ and ‘Silenced By The Night’.
Keane threw a curveball with the surprisingly effective 80s synth-pop stylings of 2008's Perfect Symmetry. Their fourth album proper, however, finds them back on more familiar territory, once again plotting a course through the sort of classy, yet anthemic, piano-led material that first brought them to prominence. The epic "The Starting Line" has something of Abba's "One of Us" to its verse and is surely destined for soundtrack heartstring-tugging, slow-motion sports footage montages.
Look, you might just have to give me this one. There are times when life in the city all gets a bit much and your ceiling falls down and you're donating your entire life savings to TFL to get to work and Boys Are Rubbish and you just want a hot chocolate and for someone to tell you 'there there, it's okay' while patting you on the head like one of those ridiculously fluffy Crufts dogs. Yes in this scenario I am the fluffball pup and I am guzzling the cocoa (despite chocolate apparently being death to dogs but WHATEVER IT'S A METAPHOR) while in the background we have The Keane's newest effort Strangeland, trying to be one of those reassuring pet owners.
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.
Keane alienated a good half of their fanbase with the chintzy, ‘80s-inspired Perfect Symmetry and then proved they had no idea how to right the ship on 2010’s dreadful Night Train EP. Unfortunately, the AAA radio mainstays’ fourth full-length effort, Strangeland, only mires the band (now a quartet, thanks to the addition of bassist Jesse Quin) further in an identity crisis. With a tracklist that reads more like a list of chapter titles from a self-help book than actual songs, Strangeland plays as though the band is trying to give themselves a pep talk—and at this point, they desperately need one.
In an arid world of snark, Keane is like an oasis of earnestness. Four albums deep, the bright Brit pop band behind hits like “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Is It Any Wonder?” continues to impress with its ability to convey a good-natured sense of optimism without tipping too far into maudlin territory. The quartet — and its chief songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley — wisely leavens the album’s fist-pumping anthems (“Silenced by the Night,” “On the Road”) and gentle paeans of reassurance (“Watch How You Go,” “You Are Young”) with streaks of contemplative melancholy and a Pied Piper’s sense of irresistible melody.
This is, I think, a fair claim to make; Keane are not viewed as a particularly cool bunch. They are often perceived as the reserve of mums, and from personal experience, as the favourite band of my extremely patriotic home economics teacher; whose insane quest to marry the Keane front man Tom Chaplin culminated in calamity, as she tried to bust her most impressive moves at the band’s show at The National Trusts’ Westonbirt Arboretum. It would be unfair to allow this review to be tarred by the psychological trauma of hearing ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ consistently on repeat whilst being taught to make rock cakes – but being honest, we all know what to expect from ‘Strangeland’.
Keane’s fourth LP is best when it stops trying to do ‘epic’, and gets nostalgic. Chris Roberts 2012 It doesn’t get much more play-safe and back-to-basics than this. 2008’s Perfect Symmetry saw mega-selling East Sussex band Keane surprise sceptics with a galvanised twist of electro-pop, retro-tooled to emulate early Simple Minds. Arguably they did this with more guile and pizzazz than The Horrors, but the band's fans may get whiplash as Strangeland, belying its title, is an unabashed scurry back to the comfort zone.
On their recent albums, Keane have experimented with synthpop, acoustic hip-pop and Bowie-esque electronic chic. With the new Strangeland, however, the U. K.