Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Listening Post 5: Keane: Perfect Symmetry

When Keane released their second album 'Under The Iron Sea' three years ago, few would have bet good money that they'd would be around to release a third. Cherry-faced lead singer Tom Chaplin's surprising revelations about his drugs addiction shattered the band's clean-living image and the album itself was muddy and downbeat, with none of the charm of their first set 'Hopes and Fears' and, in 'Is It Any Wonder?' and 'Crystal Ball', with only two really memorable tunes worthy of the band.

What a surprise then, to be able to announce that Keane's third album - with Chaplin well and truly having kicked the habit - is a wonderful revelation. 'Perfect Symmetry' is pretty much perfect pop; it's the sound of a clear-thinking band with its pop hat on, moving away from the art school jangle of the first two albums and discovering that it's quite possible to have some fun. It sounds as if Keane actually enjoy being Keane again. Most of these punchy songs are sharp and jaunty and even the handful that evoke the old Keane are far more focussed and typical of a band who have found their direction and, let's hope, intend to stick to it.

If there's been a more uplifting pop single this year than the album's opener 'Spiralling' I'd quite like to know what it's been. Sounding as if it's tumbled through a timewarp from the 1980s this is all tight synths, raging choruses and potentially-chessy "whooo!" backing vocals. The album version is slightly longer than the single/download and the fact this track didn't lodge itself at number one for weeks on end this year makes me even more frustrated at the state of the Top 40 chart these days. But Keane don't let the joy of this track put them off. New single 'The Lovers Are Losing' is more typical of Keane but no less memorable for that and tracks like 'Better Than This' and 'You Haven't Told Me Anything' are just irresistible with their combination of handclaps and gorgeous pop hooks and quirky instrumentation which suggests that the spirit of the 1980s in 'Spiralling' is a bit of a theme throughout many of these tunes. Title track 'Perfect Symmetry' is brooding and melancholic but then we're back in the new Keane groove with the insistent 'Playing Along' and the frankly lovely 'You Don't See Me.'

This short, punchy album wraps up with the powerful 'Black Burning Heart' and the lilting and effervescent 'Love is the End'. Keane may well be one of those bands you're aware of but, the odd single apart, may never have taken very seriously or paid much interest to. Barely putting a foot wrong, 'Perfect Symmetry' reaffirms Keane's musical mission statement and sounds like a band who are back on track and have absolutely redisovered the joy in what they do. It's an album which demands and rewards repeat plays and sets a very high benchmark for Big Name albums yet to come this year...and next week we've got the third album by the Kaiser Chiefs.


Now the UK's NUMBER ONE album!! So what do YOU think of Keane's 'Perfect Symmetry'?? Do you like the band's new pop sensibility or do you prefer their earlier style of music? Post a comment, let Stuff know about any other good new music out there!!

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