It’s not easy to treat a new Keane record with complete neutrality; no matter how tasty a hook Tom Chaplin may produce, this is still the band accountable for ‘Everybody’s Changing’.
To be fair on Keane, though, they’ve tried to expand on themselves in recent years, albeit by dolloping a synthesizer over the top of each track in order to qualify as ‘alternative’.
Strangeland is the band’s first full length album since 2008’s Perfect Symmetry, an album so blasé and indifferent that not even the mums of Britain took much notice. You’d have thought, then, that they would have shaken things up a little bit; of course, this is Keane we’re talking about.
Pleasantly up-tempo for the majority, Strangeland sees Keane enter ‘super-happy-fun mode’.
This isn’t to say the album is ‘bad’. There are some decent moments in fact. Lead single, ‘Silenced by the Night’, is as good as anything Gary Barlow has spewed out in recent years, and the sparkling Radio 2 pop of ‘Sovereign Light Café’ will have you spiritually prancing naked through a field of barley in slow motion, in a pleasant way of course.
But once you’ve gotten past the galloping serving of cheddar that is ‘On the Road’ and the Simon Cowell wet dream ‘The Starting Line’, it gets difficult to see this album as anything other than a hefty spoonful of mediocre, over-protected Leona-pop that is as quickly forgotten as it is predicted.
Like almost all of their previous work, it’s all very cute, elegant and blameless; it’s the sort of album you’d have no qualms about sharing with your grandmother over a nice cup of Horlicks and a buttered scone, but one you may keep hidden from your friends.
Overall, Strangeland is a run-of-the-mill, generally agreeable pop record through which Keane’s biggest crime is lacking balls.