Under The Iron Sea
The follow-up to Keane's 5 million-selling "Hopes And Fears" was recorded in New York and at Helioscentric Studios, near the band's hometown of Battle in Sussex. On their Myspace site they declare, "we were writing, singing and performing with a drive, intensity and fury that is almost unrecognisable from our previous music", perhaps with the intention of shading their tag of being the purveyors of 'wuss-rock'.
Already available as a video download, "Atlantic" opens the record in dark and dramatic fashion. The drumming of Richard Hughes dominates as a string section swoons, but the track fails to encapsulate, and serves as a disappointing introduction. Quite the antithesis is imminent single "Is It Any Wonder?" which contains an urgency perhaps not often associated with Keane. The bouncy chorus is infectious, and it is something that is also found on the cascading "Put It Behind You" and glorious "Crystal Ball". The band injects similar energy into "Leaving So Soon?" but seem to have forgotten to give the track a hook, making it extremely tempting to reach for the skip button on the CD player.
Those who loved Keane's previous work will no doubt enjoy "Nothing In My Way", one of the strongest tracks present. It contains all the hallmarks of the trio, and has a chorus that will sweep you up like a tidal wave. "A Bad Dream" is of comparable style, and Tom Chaplin perfectly conveys an atmosphere of not being sure if you're awake, coupled with a sense of loss. They manage to top this on the haunting ballad "Try Again", which features touching lyrics of love and longing, and has Chaplin's best vocal performance to date. Occasionally the band get it wrong, with "The Iron Sea" a pointless instrumental, and the tedious "Hamburg Song" destined for the mellow first-song-of-the-encore slot.
Overall though, "Under The Iron Sea" finds Keane in fine form, with enough to keep their fans happy while also experimenting to expand their sound. The changes might not be as extreme as the above quote suggests, but they've certainly become a more stimulating proposition.