Keane - Strangeland

I was at first going to pass this one by, what with Keane's oft faux, psychologically lo-fi, high sheen, alt-GQ, PR social attack; you know: MTV vids with Brylcreem in a funky back alley that somehow manages to shine, shimmer, and all the rest (but very well produced and pretty damn cool, it has to be said), but no sooner did I reach to click through the YouTube spectacle than the band's damnably infectious songcrafting sunk its hooks in, and I became a fan. Yeah, that quickly. I hang my cynical head with well staged Critically Correct shame…but that's only so's ya can't see the huge grin erupting at the cross-currents of it all. Keane has mastered architecting pop with true musical value, bringing a form of not often posited, and even more rarely recognized, materially sonic ambivalence to new heights. Not spectacularly, though, that's not their style, but certainly noticeably. I actually laughed while listening, hypnotized by the mellifluous beauty of oft anthemic work riddled with the devices that make everyday pop succeed while simultaneously reveling in the depths at which Christopher Cross, Chris DeBurgh, and others excel.

The ensemble's a big deal on both sides of the Atlantic, and rightly so. When I chanced across an alternate video version of an earlier song, "Everybody's Changing", it had 3 million views. Impressive? The original has over 13 million. I know people who'd sell their souls for that kind of exposure and not quibble for a second. The focal point lies in Tom Chaplin's sensitive, vulnerable, but convicted vocals, but there's also a subtle instrumental difference to the oeuvre: keyboards dominate, guitars interspersed only here and there throughout Keane's release history, with even the bass oft receded in the mix. This expands each CD's atmosphere, no screaming lead lines focusing attention on pyrotechnics, and makes every cut more an entablature of terrain and emotion than an exposition of what in other hands might be over-obvious acumen.

Strangeland is a CD which possesses no bad or even mediocre cuts. These guys really know what they're doing and, like The Cars and not a whole lot of other mainstream groups over the last couple decades, spare no pains to give the audience its money's and time's worth. The sound's reach is large, cutting across genre and style boundaries with ease, something I suspect was well planned and purposely, brilliantly, carried off. Keane is a collective of intelligent musicians, nothing a mistake or ill-considered, and my guess would be that they, even as prolific as sales are, haven't topped out yet. After all, some groups never descend from the plateau once they reach it. Rare, but it happens, only time will tell. Meanwhile, get it while the getting's good.

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