Album: Keane

Hopes and Fears, Island
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The Independent Culture

Keane began as a quartet but have shrunk to a trio of piano, voice and drums. The lack of any breadth of instrumental colour ultimately damages their chances of living up to the hype that's been building around the band. Hopes and Fears suggests that Keane are aiming for the same maudlin audience as Travis and Coldplay; song after song focuses on separation, the drifting apart of relationships, adolescent alienation and other pop staples. On a few tracks like "Sunshine" there's a Brian Wilson- like edge to Tom Chaplin's tenor, which otherwise recalls pomp-rockers from Freddie Mercury to Starsailor's James Walsh. More often, the clarity of Chaplin's high register brings to mind A-ha's Morten Harket - except that Keane would kill for such memorable melodies. It doesn't help that the two best tunes, "Everybody's Changing" and "This is the Last Time", leave the rest of album sounding decidedly flat. This matters: as Coldplay and Radiohead have shown, there are vast audiences for this sort of melancholy self-absorption, just waiting to be snagged by a heartbreaking melody or a gut-wrenching hook - the very elements in short supply here. Musically it's all neatly crafted, if rather drab; but there's something stifling about the album. There's no joy, no anger, no elation - and even the despair seems affected.