Keane: Night Train

RIYL: a-ha, The Script, lily-white guys teaming up with rappers

Eight songs, 30 minutes. Actually seven songs, since the first track is more of an intro. And it comes a mere 20 months after their third album, Perfect Symmetry. Forgive us if this sounds overly suspicious, but it looks from here as if Keane is playing the contractual obligation game, giving their overlords at Universal something that technically qualifies as a full-length album so they can extricate themselves from their contract and move on to greener pastures. Otherwise, why the rush? Take an extra couple months, add two more songs, and put some meat on those bones. That would seem to be the wiser move, considering that their last two albums have done well chart-wise, but sold a fraction as many copies as their 2004 debut, Hopes and Fears. But nope, Keane clearly have places to be. Hmmm.


Whatever their reasons, the band’s lastest “full-length” effort, Night Train, shows the band itchy once again to explore new ground, bringing in rapper K’Naan on two tracks and Japanese MC Tigarah on another. As ridiculous as that might sound on paper, Kane+rapper actually works pretty well in execution, even if it’s all rather pointless. Yes, the back-and-forth between singer Tom Chaplin and K’Naan on “Stop for a Minute” as a certain opposites-attract charm to it, but the song would have worked just fine on its own. “Ishin Denshin (You’ve Got to Help Yourself)” fares much better, as Tigarah’s butterfly tenor complements the song’s feather-light pop groove.

The band has stated in interviews that making Under the Iron Sea was a miserable experience, yet the finest moments on Night Train recall that album. The fittingly titled “Back in Time” finds the band combining Gary Numan’s synth arsenal with Ultravox’s penchant for melodrama, while the gorgeous mid-tempo number “Your Love” showcases a rare vocal from pianist and principal songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley. It’s understandable that the band does not like being put in a box, but it’s not always a bad thing to play to your strengths; goodness knows more songs like “Back in Time” would eliminate the awkward inclusion of songs like the “Rocky”-riffing “Looking Back,” the other collaboration with K’Naan.

One wonders if the success of the Script, an Irish trio that is basically Keane with rhyme skillz, has gotten into their heads, and they feel the need to answer with some dope rhymes of their own. If so, their fears are unfounded; the Script will never write a song like “Is It Any Wonder?” or “The Lovers Are Losing,” and in any case, the inclusion of guest rappers stands a better chance of alienating their existing fan base than it does of expanding it. Still, give Keane credit for not wanting to stand still; if only their wanderlust had taken them in a more interesting direction than the guest rapper route. (Interscope 2010)

Keane MySpace page
Click to buy Night Train from Amazon


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