Under the Iron Sea [Special Edition] - Keane Album Review
This album has been eagerly anticipated by me for the past few months - and apparently I'm not alone, as it has gone straight into the UK album charts at number one. This is hardly surprising given the success of it's predecessor - 2004's monumental Hopes and Fears. It is rare for me to "wear out" songs/ an album due to over-play, but Hopes and Fears was rarely out of my CD player/ computer for most of 2004/ 2005 - will Under the Iron Sea have the same effect?
I opted for the special edition which is lavishly packaged in a pseudo-hardback book cover with a DVD featuring videos of two tracks Is it any Wonder and Atlantic as well as footage of the "making of the album" and other bits-and-pieces.
Opening track Atlantic confirmed my worst suspicions: my CD player was probably due to get another two year long Keane-bashing. The drumming, atmospherics and ambience on this track are quite simply fantastic. If you have a half way decent HiFi, you will bask in the sonic pleasantness of this excellent track.
Whereas H&F suffered a bit from the "this sounds like the last track" syndrome - which I felt was justified due to the quirky three-piece lineup of the band (it's not exactly "normal" not to have a bass player in a band) - this album seems to celebrate diversity with a quite amazing range of tempos, sounds and styles. Granted, there is never really any doubt that it is Keane playing (this is a good thing!).
If we were to draw parallels, Bad Dream is the Bedshaped of the first album - and is just as beautiful a slice of music as it predecessor. With the release of Is it any Wonder - the first single from the album last month, I did begin to wonder (no pun) whether this album would be as good as the last, as I feel it is a slightly weak track - even though I like it more having heard it on the HiFi. The rhythm section of the song really reminds me of an Adam Clayton/ Larry Mullen (U2) combination, and I wonder if it was influenced by their US support slot for U2 last year?
The beautifully distorted keys (piano?) on the intro for Put it Behind You are very tasty, followed closely by another set of slightly distored organ chords - all of which combine to a slow building tension. Ridiculously cathcy - I defy you not to be whistling this within a single listen.
Nothing in my way sees us in more familiar H&F territory - with it's piano chords going throughout, followed by a harmony-laden Leaving so soon?.
I really could go on at much length about how great the album is, but am scared of over-doing it with the superlatives [too late! - Ed], so instead I'll now focus on the DVD content which partners the special edition.
As mentioned earlier, the DVD features videos for Atlantic - which is an extended version of the song, filmed in grainy black-and-white to accurately reflect the mood of the song. You've no doubt already seen the video for Is it any Wonder, so there's no point mentioning that.
The "Making of" part of the DVD is excellent (in my view) and gives you a real insight into the minds and workings of the band. It becomes abundantly clear, for instance that Tim Rice-Oxley really is the driving force behind the band, seeming to come up with all of the lyrics as well as the composition. It is quite amusing in parts, as he - complete with geeky glasses and tight fitting spandex tennis shirt - starts to resemble the synth guy from the 80s series "Fame" (remember that?). His musical/ songwriting ability is undeniable though, as you travel through the growth of this album. That is not to underplay Tom Chaplin - whose vocal helps to provide their unique sound, or Richard Hughes - whose drumming and rhythm arrangements are also a major ingredient to the mix.
In case you somehow haven't picked-up the vibe that I love this album: I love this album!
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