Album Review: Keane – Night Train EP

By on Wednesday, 12th May 2010 at 3:30 pm
 

Keane have gotten so popular worldwide that they seemed untouchable. Kind of like U2 before Bono went off to do the politics thing and became a philanthropist. However, with their new EP ‘Night Train’, Keane may have finally bitten off more than they could chew. They’ve tried way too hard to evolve their sound with this effort, and I think they may have lost the plot. According to online reports, the band recorded these tracks in various studios while they were touring in support of ‘Perfect Symmetry’ last year, and from what I can tell having interviewed bands on the road, it’s not easy writing or recording while you’re touring. This may explain why the tracks don’t feel cohesive and run the gamut from great to terrible.

The album begins with trying to create atmosphere with the creepy instrumental ‘House Lights’. So creepy that it sounds like an attempt to ape Jacko’s ‘Thriller’. Not exactly what you’d expect with a Keane album. The next song, ‘Back in Time’, sounds more like early Keane, with Tom Chaplin’s yearning vocals, but we are reminded that this is the ‘new’ Keane with interstellar synth action popping up every now and again. It’s nice but it’s not an earworm by any means.

Better still is ‘Clear Skies’, a hand-clappingly fun pop affair that reminds that Keane (or rather Tim Rice-Oxley) is capable of writing some great tunes. And judging from ‘Your Love’, the first Keane song Rice-Oxley has ever sung lead vocals on, he has a decent voice as well. Tim, don’t hide your light under a bushel! This song has a definite ‘80s vibe to it and it goes on for a tad too long, but it’s not horrible. ‘My Shadow’ ends the EP on an up note, sounding more like the sweeping Keane we once knew.

By far the strongest track is the previously released ‘Stop for a Minute’ collaboration with Canadian-Somalian rapper K’Naan (watch the video and read our single review). I sat in on the band’s live webchat with Ryan Brockington of the New York Post on Monday evening, and I learned interestingly that K’Naan’s words have been mysteriously removed from the song when it is played in certain markets, such as the Netherlands. Drummer Richard Hughes said that in some markets rap wasn’t accepted on pop radio stations, and that explained the different versions. Say what? Talk about unnecessary censorship, as K’Naan’s vocals are such a great addition to the Keane sound that listening to the rest of this EP, I almost wished he was now part of the band, because maybe he could have saved this sinking ship.

At the EP’s worst moments, the band sounds unintentionally humourous. Take ‘Ishin Deshin (‘You’ve Got to Help Yourself’, a collaboration the band did with Japanese rapper/MC Tigarah, which starts off oddly enough with the sounds of an antiquated dial-up modem and then turns into something that could have soundtracked a Nintendo (first generation, none of this DS stuff) game back in the day, complete with tinkling background melody. Errr…pass. ‘Looking Back’ starts with a ‘Rocky’-style fanfare. K’Naan also contributes to this one, but the gratuitously cheesy fanfare keeps coming back in and distracts from the lyrics – come now Keane, seriously? Your older listeners are snickering. All in all I’d say if you liked ‘Stop for a Minute’, buy the single. But unless you’re a Keane fanatic, you probably don’t need this EP.

6/10

Night Train is available now. Keane is touring England this summer, and we’ve got a competition for a lucky winner and a guest to see them at Birmingham Academy on 16th June. Enter here.

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3 Responses

2:38 am
19th May 2010

I couldn’t agree more, it’s such a shame as keane were a great band and this album is actually verging on terrible..

10:22 am
19th May 2010

Actually, I couldn’t agree less!!! Admittedly, this EP is a grower for the patient among us. But once you embrace it, you just love it. I’m a Keane fan, but no fanatic – I love all types of music. This one does it for me because it is ecclectic…it’s not mainstream…Your Love is wonderful, as is My Shadow. For me, Keane isn’t just about what we hear on the surface…dig a little deeper and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you might find. Music as a whole is constantly growing, and I for one, am really pleased Keane are happy for move with the times. They give me what I want out of a CD, so I’m happy! :o)

[…] Keane was not without some career stumbles. The ‘Night Train’ EP of 2010 saw the band try to spread their wings even further beyond their unusual MOR style. Much […]

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