Once in a blue moon, there comes an album which removes all doubt of its potential inadequacy and delights those who listen to it. Sadly, Keane haven't quite managed toÂ fulfill their potential.Â Tim Rice-Oxley may have cleaned up his act along with the rest of the "piano rock" (which is what exactly, apart from a very lame form of generalising) group, but perhaps they haven't quite replicated the performance of those they admire.
It was a bold statement by the BBC Music's review site to compare Keane's latest album Perfect Symmetry to those of the David Bowie, Simple Minds and U2 stature, after initial royalties were paid for purchasing the 'weight in gold.' However, what the Hastings band failed to recognise is that an eighties sound is not appreciated by the majority of listeners to Radio 1 and Kiss 100 today. Long gone are the sparkling synth-lines and choppy guitar sounds (apart from perhaps The Killers) which made groups like The Cars so popular in the 1980s. Indeed, Brandon Flowers cites the American band The Cars, as one of his major influences, after he had once purchased their Greatest Hits albums as a kid. At times Keane have used their idols as such influence and have intended to make their presence felt forÂ today's audiences toÂ feverishly download on to their ipods.Â The truth is, the currentÂ market demands heavy basslines with zippy melodies and not breathy vocals on a plate of piano.
But, despite all this the Perfect Symmetry album is a great piece of nostalgia intertwined with some modernisation techniques. If you require an up-tempo re-working of a Simple Minds track like Glittering Prize, look no further than the promotional track, Spiralling. Its Yamaha bass synthesizer is a contrast from Keane's earlier work of pure piano chords and "dreamy", Matt Bellamy-like (but nowhere near as perfect)Â vocals and lyrics of a durgyÂ Iron Sea and viewing a repetitiveÂ Crystal Ball. In fact, Keane arguably have modernised their sound productively, but yet remain stuck in the past all the same.
Spiralling is a gem from Perfect Symmetry and its "dance-pop" appeal may alert those with a penchant for a tune, whilst The Lovers Are Losing is a slower, but equally melodic track with far greater vocals than those screechy wails fromÂ Tom ChaplinÂ in the past. It reflects the idea that Keane have not completely eradicated their ability to pen piano with electronics, with the swirling synthesizer combined with heartfelt lyrics proving a good formula.
You Haven't Told Me Anything, does exactly what it says on the tin. The track delivers practically nothing apart from reminders of how many groups intend to revive the synthpop culture of the 1980s, which declined dramatically thereafter. But, all the same, that and the remainder of the album give hope for Keane that a more mainstream audience will warm to their ideals. Whilst the snivelling-geeks with a tendency to detract from the norm stand proud with a promising album, their idea of "rock" does not quite live-up to what a true rock lover of AC/DC, Foreigner or Van Halen would cite as "rock".
Although to believe, that like Coldplay's Viva La Vida or Snow Patrol's 2006 albumÂ Eyes Open, there wasÂ ever an intention toÂ "rock out" and deliver to its audienceÂ a sense of fun or pureÂ big-haired, guitar-thrashing entertainment, is to remain naive.Â Realistically, men behind pianos singing safe lyrics which conform to a mass market is the norm, which Keane embrace. Although, are Keane muchÂ different from their "wild child" parents?
Overall,Â Perfect SymmetryÂ is in itself an enigma. On the one hand it reflects the golden-age of synthetic rock and enhances it through a heavier, seductive bassline. On the other, it appears ordinary in a current climate of musically lost souls. But, it is certainly a vast improvement on their previous work - that's for sure.
ARTIST: KeaneÂ Â
ALBUM: Perfect Symmetry, released: 13 October, 2008.Â
MY RATING: 7/10.