Keane: Hopes and Fears

There are not many albums that I come across that I like these days. Idon’t mean that in a cynical way; it’s just that I have had theprivilege of listening to so much good music in the last three decadesthat I guess I am just somewhat hard to please nowadays. And then, thenumber of new albums or bands that I want to writeabout probably wouldn’t cross one a year or so; I remember hearing”Night Songs” by Nusrat a decade ago, which had a similar effecton me. Coldplay’s “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head” hadthe same impact. On my trip to New York last month, I caught hold ofsuch an album.

Keane springs from the small English town of Battle in East Sussex,where the famous Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. Though theband came together back in 1997, 2004 sees their debut album “Hopesand Fears” enter the UK charts at the #1 position – no mean feat initself. And already Keane have been nominated for MTV’s EMA (EuropeanMusic Awards) in the “Best New Act” category. Being in the musicbusiness, I know that a lot of these things depend on how much yourrecord label is going to push you. But don’t let that stop you fromchecking out the new album, because I do dig it, and if it is a lot ofhype and spin, then I’m falling for it and so will you!

The cool thing about Keane is that they are a rock band without aguitarist! And though I’m addicted to guitar rock, the lack thereof inthis album actually lends itself to a different sound than much of themusic I would normally listen to. Though I must admit that this banddoes sound initially quite a bit like Coldplay (which I love and so it isnot necessarily a bad thing!) and a much more accessible version ofRadiohead (did anybody figure out what they were up to on “Kid A”?!),Coldplay itself sounds a lot like the Beatles, Floyd and U2 at times.So you will never get away from the comparisons naturally heardbetween a new band still cutting its teeth and such old schoolreferences. This band is definitely my pick forthe new act of the year.

With excellent vocals which are at times extremely reminiscent ofThom Yorke of Radiohead is Tom Chaplin. On drums, Keane has RichardHughes, and on Beatles/Coldplay/Floyd-esque piano is Mr. TimRice-Oxley. The one thing that you get out of Keane’s music is that itsounds quite optimistic, which is refreshing after all the pseudoangst-ridden trash which is bandied about in the over-marketed globalmusic scene these days (even Pakistani rock is starting to getaffected by this disease! C’mon people, as Carlos Santana likes tosay: let’s “accentuate the positive” a little bit! Don’t we haveenough to be sad about already?:)

More kudos for a new band sound impossible, with the UK’s leading QMagazine hailing Keane’s debut record as “Album of the Year” on the5th of October, less than 5 months after the debut record wasreleased! That must be a first! If that wasn’t enough, Keane’s “Hopes& Fears” has been nominated for this year’s Mercury Music Prize, theUK’s most prestigious music award. The New Musical Express, consideredlike a Bible of popular music in the UK, is also all praise for theband, so either Keane publicists are the top of the tree, or this bandreally rocks, and I think it is a combination of the two! Even the BBChas started using titbits of their tracks for soundtracks for some oftheir shows!

To the music itself, the first track on the album reminds me a lot ofthe first Coldplay track I ever heard, “Yellow”. It is possible that it wascontrived to be Keane’s non-guitar, mellower cousin of “Yellow”, withits catchy refrain and timeless love song lyrics written by a boy tohis beloved. Still, at least it’s not sappy Britney Spears-Bellybutton-music. The piano chord progression is magically addictive, enough so that when I downloaded the song initially off the net, I was given 6 minutes of the same8 bars of this song and it was good enough not to bore me till a week past and I finally bought the album!

“This is the last time” is a lovely song, with a beautiful melismaticmelody. Chaplin’s falsetto reminds one of Chris Martin (and evenFreddie Mercury of Queen) a lot here. The chorus of this song makes onefeel that we are back in the 70s all over a bit.

The Falsetto on “Bend and break” is more like Thom Yorke, though youwould never find Radiohead singing such relatively light-hearted loveydovey and intelligible songs.

“We might as well be strangers” takes the dynamics down a tad, moremelancholic and a little bit sadder than the rest of the songs on thealbum, but it’s a nice contrast to the overall sound, since most of thealbum has been described, as has the band itself, with the word”Cherubic”, like the face of the slightly pudgy piano player!

“Everybody’s changing” is the track that Fierce Panda records (withartists such as Coldplay) mini-mogul Simon Williams heard at a smallgig that Keane performed at last year in the UK when he decided to askthe band to put the song out as a single. This will be a hit track forthe band for sure.

“Your eyes open” is another bittersweet melody that you will instantlywarm up to. “She has no time” was written by Tim about a failed loveof singer Tom’s and is the lowest point in the album in terms of mood,and again shows the band’s breadth in the range of emotion they haveattempted to capture successfully. This is easily my favourite track onthe album so far. The use of keyboards is amazing, and Chaplin’svocals are brilliant here, especially in the chorus.

“Sunshine” again reminds one of ’70s happiness. Man, these guys arehappy! They must be taking some “Happy” pills! C’mon can life be”this” good? But I still like it, it’s upbeat and sweet, and a littlelight-hearted, like the classic ballad band “Bread” re-configured forthe year 2004!

“Bed shaped” is a nice ballad to end the album, which meanders likeclassic rock from a slow beginning to a grand crescendo.

All in all, go out and buy this album now!!!