Album: Keane <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Under the Iron Sea, ISLAND
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The Independent Culture

For that Difficult Second Album, Keane have devised a vague thematic overview, aiming for "a kind of sinister fairytale-world-gone-wrong, a feeling of confusion and numbness represented by a dark place under an impenetrable iron sea". Which, frankly, doesn't sound all that welcoming. It does, however, offer an excuse for the somewhat repetitive, Johnny-One-Note nature of the songs - though I suspect there's a limit to how many expressions of confused yearning and pleas for reconciliation even Keane's fans can take at one sitting. The best track here is the single "Is It Any Wonder?", on which spiky wah-wah keyboards point up the anti-Blair message, the perceived betrayal prompting reflection upon whether "love is just a lyric in a children's rhyme/ a soundbite". It's a much sharper expression of the idea than the closing "The Frog Prince", which with its references to broken promises and "your prince's crown" offers a clumsy metaphor for the PM's crumbling Camelot. Elsewhere, the earnest prog-rock overtones of the arrangements and Tom Chaplin's tenor - especially the banked vocals of "Leaving So Soon", which recall Jon Anderson - tend to smother the songs, their windy, anthemic manner ladled into empty vessels.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Is It Any Wonder?', 'Crystal Ball'

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