Every now and then Noel Gallagher (Oasis) takes a break from battling with his kid brother, vocalist Liam, to pontificate on other matters. Gallagher famously dismissed Keane (while getting in a dig at Liam) when he said, "Traditionally speaking, the three biggest twats in any band are the singer, the keyboardist and the drummer. I don't need to say anything else." Despite the slam, Keane, a trio consisting of Tom Chaplin (vocals), Tim Rice-Oxley (piano), and Richard Hughes (drums), pressed on.
Sure guitars rule. But as Elton John and Billy Joel showed in the '70s and Coldplay reaffirmed three decades later, bands can find huge success slinging piano-oriented ballads at the music buying public.
The group was originally known as Cherry Keane, named after a friend of Chaplin's mother who passed away leaving some money to the family. Chaplin used a portion of those funds to live on during the group's early struggling days.
As Keane was getting established Coldplay's Chris Martin caught the band's show. Martin suggested that Rice-Oxley leave Keane for Coldplay. And though the offer was tempting, Rice-Oxley declined. For quite a while it looked like a bad decision.
Keane, which at one point included guitarist Dominic Scott (who left in '01), had been kicking around since the late '90s. But not much happened until '02. That's when the Coldplay "connection" appeared again. This time it was Simon Williams of Fierce Panda Records, the man given credit for discovering Coldplay. He saw Keane at a London club gig and offered to release a single. "Everybody's Changing" was an immediate success and the group was signed by Island Records.
Keane's '04 debut album "Hopes And Fears," containing the hit "Somewhere Only We Know," sold over five million copies worldwide. BRIT Awards and other accolades rolled in.
While on tour, Keane began work on their sophomore effort, "Under The Iron Sea." The album, recorded in both England and the U.S., derived its name from a line from the set's third single, "Crystal Ball." The album was a U.K. chart topper but didn't sell half as many copies as "Hopes And Fears" (still not bad).
A far bigger concern was Chaplin. After an extensive round of touring in '06, he checked into a clinic to be treated for alcohol and drug addictions. That, in turn, forced the cancellation of a U.S. tour.
During the down time, Rice-Oxley worked with Gwen Stefani on her second solo album. The '06 release, "The Sweet Escape," featured tracks co-written by Rice-Oxley, including "Early Winter."
The collaboration grew out of a Stefani comment made a year earlier stating she wanted to work with the group. "We might give it a go," Rice-Oxley said at the time - and at least he did.
Keane, with Chaplin, returned to live performing in late '06. Two years down the road, Keane issued "Prefect Symmetry," their third album. With "Spiraling" as the lead-single, the album went #1 in the U.K. in the first week of its release.
In '97, Chaplin did volunteer work in South Africa. As a result of that experience, Keane has been involved with the Make Poverty History Foundation. Their relief efforts have included a Live 8 appearance, Band-Aid 20 (recording an updated version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?") and covering Elton John's chestnut "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" for the charity album, "Help!: A Day In The Life."
Inevitably there are the Keane - Coldplay comparisons. They do exist but Keane comes closer in style and substance to Dashboard Confessional. To their credit Keane is far more appealing than either group.
Ballads and mid-tempo songs dominate "Hopes And Fears." Strong melodies, solid, if unspectacular, arrangements and Chaplin's vocals are the draw.
"Under The Iron Sea" is generally more uptempo. The ethereal "Crystal Ball" and "Put It Behind You" have some drive behind them and standout among the usual hit ballads.
Guitars may be more prominent but the sincere midtempo pop-Rock songs Keane is known for populate "Perfect Symmetry." The first two tracks, "Spiraling" and "The Lovers Are Losing," play to these strengths. The title track, "Again And Again" and shuffling rhythm of "Pretend That You're Alone" provide some welcome energy.