What do you call a rock band with no guitars? A welcome change to the norm, that’s what. The more specific answer is Battle, East Sussex, England’s Keane. A trio made up of piano/bass, drums, and vocals, Keane is a power pop combo sure to take America by storm a la another piano heavy British band, Coldplay. The two bands indeed share other similar qualities in the glorious and aching singing styles of Tom Chaplin and Chris Martin respectively, and a combination of pop sensibility with singer-songwriter pathos and gravity. And while the similarities abound, there is enough originality in Keane to separate them from the aforementioned darlings of the music media.
Amazingly, Tom Chaplin’s voice is a little more polished and disciplined than Martin’s. At times he can resemble Thom Yorke’s early work, but if his voice resembles anyone’s, it seems a combination of Fran Healy’s and Freddie Mercury’s. It has at times Healy’s quiet moroseness, and at others the large pomp and grandiosity of Mercury’s operatic swells. The band’s name could in fact be a tongue in cheek play on Queen, maybe as if it were pronounced differently, or even by a child. The band actually did start out with a guitarist who quit, and lucky them, they didn’t really need him. At first the Coldplay comparisons hurt them as no one wanted a `copycat,’ but people started to take notice with first single “Everybody’s Changing” and then subsequently, “This is the Last Time.”
Vocalist Chaplin went to school in Edinburgh before committing to the band full-time, which might account for some of the Travis influence. Scotland also seems to be the country du jour with such bands as the Beta Band, Travis, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand, and the Delgados coming out of the land of kilts and bagpipes, just to name a few. The band started out by covering Oasis, U2, and the Beatles before they started craving a little artistic originality. The culmination of almost five years of hard work shows the magnificent Hopes and Fears as the result.
“Somewhere Only We Know” starts off sounding a little like “Fake Plastic Trees,” and then the Healy / Mercury mix of Chaplin’s vocals take over and propel the song to dizzying heights. There is something magical about the moment when the piano starts to pound repetitive notes as Chaplin angelically and majestically sings:
“And if you have a minute why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go somewhere only we know?”
The next track is the aforementioned second single, “This is the Last Time,” but what is noticeable about the entire record upon a complete listen is that the entire album is full of marketable singles, full of catches and hooks that will leave you humming for days. Just listen to the choruses of “Bend and Break,” “Everything Changes,” “Can’t Stop Now,” and “Bedshaped”.
Speaking of “Bedshaped,” the song is another easy comparison to Coldplay in its album ending showstopper fashion. Just like “Amsterdam,” Snow Patrol’s “Somewhere A Clock is Ticking,” or Clearlake’s “Treat Yourself With Kindness,” “Bedshaped” builds to a crashing crescendo of heart wrenching bombast.
Yes, Keane is slickly produced and packaged, heavily marketed, and seemingly `put together,’ but Fierce Panda, the label that discovered them, knows talent when they see it. After all, they discovered Coldplay!
Queen- A Night at the Opera
Travis- The Man Who
Coldplay- A Rush of Blood to the Head