Hi 84 / Lo 72
|Volume 69, Issue 148,
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Arts & Entertainment
Despite potential, Keane falls short
By Michael Rice
The pool of cliché, formulaic twenty-something rockers has deepened a bit more with Keane's first album, Hopes and Fears. Though some may hate comparisons to better-known bands, it seems to be a necessary evil for up-and-coming artists.
That being the case, Keane is a sort of watered down Coldplay-Ben Folds Five hybrid with a touch of the older, jaded Billy Joel. It's Coldplay without the brilliant piano lines and Ben Folds Five without the pop sensibility.
Formed in 1997, the UK trio is led by Tom Chaplin, who offers radio-friendly vocals that are predictably susceptible to random bursts of falsetto. Tim Rice-Oxley creates the piano-driven melodies, which mostly stick to safe pop-rock progressions. Richard Hughes' drumming fits well with the tone of the album, but is nothing to write home about.
The album definitely has a pop feel to it, and the songs are at times hard to distinguish from one another. In fact, it seems as though they are meshed into one gelatinous whole, but not in a good, Death Cab for Cutie way -- Keane is more suffocating and lifeless.
One exception is "We Might as Well be Strangers," which brings up the poignant detachment that accompanies not only losing someone, but losing touch with someone. This song is one of the slower ones, embedded in the middle of the album to provide a much-needed break from the bombardment of the copy-of-a-copy syndrome that occupies the rest of the record. While the music stays on the level of a semitalented bar band, the lyrics are generally ambiguous and repetitive.
Although the album does not seem forced, and the sound is aptly clean, it does at times seem mind-numbingly safe. Keane is a talented band, but until it takes risks, it will continue to tread water in the deepening pool of young bands.
It seems doubtful Keane will be able to capture a large American audience with this first effort, especially considering the abundance of mechanical bands overwhelming the pop music industry, but with any luck the band will fare better on its side of the pond.
Hopes and Fears
The verdict: Playing it safe won't get them out of pop's kiddie pool.
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