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 to fulfill their potential. 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 for today's audiences to feverishly download on to their ipods. The truth is, the current 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) vocals and lyrics of a durgy Iron Sea and viewing a repetitive 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 from Tom Chaplin 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 album Eyes Open, there was ever an intention to "rock out" and deliver to its audience a sense of fun or pure big-haired, guitar-thrashing entertainment, is to remain naive. Realistically, men behind pianos singing safe lyrics which conform to a mass market is the norm, which Keane embrace. Although, are Keane much different from their "wild child" parents?

Overall, Perfect Symmetry 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: Keane  

ALBUM: Perfect Symmetry, released: 13 October, 2008. 

GENRE: Rock.

MY RATING: 7/10.

 

Comments

thanks for the review stu, i really enjoyed reading it.

I agree in the most part with what you say about 'synth-rock' being a thing of the past and some bands trying to restore its popularity these days is just a waste of time. The Killers have done a great job so far but, if you've heard their new song 'Human' you, like me will probably become concerned by the fact it doesn't sound that much different from songs on Sam's Town, just a bit spacey. 

I also couldn't agree more about the comments you made about Coldplay and Snow Patrol trying to appeal to a mass audience, if i hear Chasing Cars one more time I don't know what i'll do. 

I am worried about the lack of variety in new music these days. But on the other hand there isn't much more you can do with music that hasn't already been done. I honestly feel the band at the top of music at the moment is Muse, I think Mad Matt Bellamy is probably the most talented guy in the business at the present. 

Thanks again for the review. I've taken a casual interest in Keane in the past, nothing more and I heard they have 're-invented' their sound, i'll probably give this a miss though. 

I saw Muse live for the first time this summer - I was blown away by the satellites and space-related-stuff, but strip them of all this and what are you left with? High pitched screaming. I'm not denying Matt Bellamy's superb talent on the guitar but what else do they really have to offer? (I'm going to get slated now, aren't I?)

P.S. I heard you went to Oasis, Rob?! How gutted am I - I gave my ticket to a friend because I didn't want to come back to Kent by myself. Apparently I didn't miss much though? 

I suppose I can concede your point about muse and that they seem to be all style at times. I've seen them a few times (including wembley stadium) I would just like to mention that before I saw them live they were just a mid-range band to me, my point being they are all about the live shows, it is why they tour constantly, why they only ever seem to win awards for those performances rather than their studio work. But I do honestly believe he is more talented than anyone else out there and I am aware that:

Muse = Matt Bellamy 

Black Holes and Revelations is just the tip I think though, the other 3 albums were by Bellamy's own admission purposely written for live shows, i think there's a lot more to come. 

 

As for Oasis, no you didn't miss much haha, didn't even play Live Forever or She's Electric, and they played a rather... boring acoustic version of Don't Look Back in Anger, for which i feel cheated! :( I saw them at Milton Keynes Bowl in.... 2005 i think, they were much better there, which is why i am willing to put my faith in them again by tryin to see them at Wembley Stadium in July.

FYI: tickets for that go on sale tomorrow just in case you were interested and didn't know. 

 

 

are where a lot of bands get their money. Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised if that's why Matt Bellamy does so many gigs. Isn't money the reason that Stereophonics and Muse fell out?

Yeah, I won't claim to know much about it, but it was something about Stereophonics claiming Muse wanted more money to support them that they were offering and Matt Bellamy getting the arse and denying it. 

Some bands do tours and lose money though, I think U2's Vertigo tour cost more than they actually made back, could be wrong though.

Perfect Symmetry a perfect package?