Keane – Under The Iron Sea (2006): Review

keane

Produced by Andy Green and Keane
Label – Island

One of the most interesting conclusions one could extract from Keane’s drawn out double DVD set from 2005 was that having established themselves as one of the biggest adult pop acts of the Millennium, at times the rewards for their successes were bitterly tainted. Constant touring and promotion for their debut album “Hopes And Fears” had led to tensions, bickering, and the once tight knit threesome seemed to be almost unhinged by the burden of stardom. When singer Tom Chaplin told the press that the forthcoming album was a “darker and deeper affair” than their debut, it was undoubtedly borne from the fact that the band’s mindset was battle hardened, less buoyant than ever before. Indeed much of the song writing for “Under The Iron Sea”was squeezed in during the relentless and at times fraught touring schedule. When Chaplin sings “Is it any wonder I’m tired, is it any wonder I’m uptight, is it any wonder I don’t know what’s right?” from the opening single “Is It Any Wonder?”, he’s capturing in one song the essence of what has happened to Keane over the past couple of years. Where they had faced uncertainty with a joie de vivre on “Hopes And Fears”, “Under The Iron Sea” lyrically and musically shows disenchantment and an almost cynical look at their world.

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The dark outlook kicks off with the haunted “Atlantic”, a sweeping ballad complete with Tim Rice-Oxley’s keyboard wave effects as Chaplin’s lullaby drifts with the words “I need a place to sleep”. He’s obviously tired, but would be instantly woken by Rice-Oxley’s Edge/U2 motif for the powerful “Is It Any Wonder?”. The melodies aren’t as instinctive or deliberate as “Hopes And Fears”. more sonically experimental with a developing charm that’s encouraged with every listen. “Hamburg Song” is sparse yet beautiful and highlights Chaplin’s extraordinary vocal talent as he sings of the complexity of love set to an incredibly sad piano refrain. “Put It Behind You” is as close to anything from “Hopes And Fears” and is probably the only song that carries an optimistic message. The richly rewarding instrumental “The Iron Sea” has the chill of the theme from an East European cold war spy thriller. It’s undoubtedly easy to make unflattering comments about these three musicians complaining about their tough showbiz lives, and the tendency for the UK music press to throw rocks at a band at the top, but the truth is, the album is a very credible sophomore album. It’s not “Hopes And Fears Part II”, which for this reviewer is admirable, but it is still unmistakably Keane, and definitely worth your investigation.

There’s deep undercurrents lurking beneath “Under The Iron Sea”, but the battleship Keane drives forward with an album that will reach its pleasurable destination via some welcome passages into uncharted territories.

7/10

Track Listing
1. “Atlantic” 4:13
2. “Is It Any Wonder?” 3:06
3. “Nothing in My Way” 4:00
4. “Leaving So Soon?” 3:59
5. “A Bad Dream” 5:06
6. “Hamburg Song” 4:37
7. “Put It Behind You” 3:36
8. “The Iron Sea” 2:57
9. “Crystal Ball” 3:53
10. “Try Again” 4:27
11. “Broken Toy” 6:07
12. “The Frog Prince” 4:22

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3 responses to “Keane – Under The Iron Sea (2006): Review

  1. Nice review Geoff – I really like the first two Keanes, some exceptional tracks (the bookends on Hopes & Fears especially) and side A is particularly strong here.
    I have the 3rd one too, haven’t listened in years though, thanks for the reminder!

  2. Yeah. Excellent post. I really liked Keane at the beginning and there’s some great stuff on this album too but I don’t know, I kind of lost interest along the way. Perhaps they’re due for a revisit.

  3. Geoff – Thanks, Yeah the debut album is a stunner, and this is a brave follow up because of its darker atmospherics. It almost works as well, not quite but also.

    JP – Exactly the same as you, I kind of lost interest after the first two for no good reason at all. After re-visiting this I should go back and check on their more recent releases.

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