May 08, 2012 - Cherrytree/Interscope
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. band have gone back to their roots: The record contains an abundance of swooning, piano-driven music buoyed by Tom Chaplin’s octave-spanning voice. Naturally, Strangeland is a lovely album, from the punchy, early U2-esque “On The Road” to the string-dusted torch tune “The Starting Line” and even the somber “Black Rain,” whose pitter-patter rhythms and piercing vocals conjure Radiohead.
Tim Rice-Oxley is a gifted pianist, and whatever he plays is immediately recognizable as Keane, whether it’s the glassy elegance of “Silenced By The Night” or the twinkly ivory work within “Disconnected.” And Chaplin’s voice is a relic from a time when rock stars weren’t afraid to let loose and embrace their inner operatic pop performer. If anything, he grafts the powerful lungwork of Queen’s Freddie Mercury with the delicacy of Coldplay’s Chris Martin. (And, on “In Your Own Time,” he even recalls the Killers’ Brandon Flowers.)
Still, as a whole Strangeland is a bit much to take, mainly due its schmaltzy sheen and overly gooey (or trite) sentiments—such as, “If I am the river, you are the ocean / Got the radio on, got the wheels in motion” (“Silenced By The Night”) or “Wouldn’t it be fine, to close your eyes and see something / Something more than this” (“In Your Own Time”). While the positive vibe is admirable, there’s just not much substantial to grab on to—and few songs linger after the album’s over.