When you look at some of the finer-tuned pop acts from the UK in the past decade, Keane make a lot of sense. With acts like U2 and Oasis paving the way for softer, polished acts like Travis and Snow Patrol to make a killing, you could see how Keane could achieve accolades like Q’s best album and track of 2008, or the Brit Awards’ Best Breakthrough Act. But with their eight-song extended player Night Train, Keane have steered the train right off the track.
A tour of their earlier singles reveal infectious and beautiful piano melodies (”Somewhere Only We Know” from Hopes and Fears) giving way to more complex and electrified work like “Is It Any Wonder?” (from Under the Iron Sea) and “Spiralling,” (from 2008’s Perfect Symmetry). Night Train finds Keane stridently embracing the electronics of some their idols—Depeche Mode, a-ha, Pet Shop Boys but in a dreadful direction. Their invitation of guests only adds to the ghastliness bringing rappers into the studio. Oh boy, is it dreadful.
After gentle opening instrumental “House Lights,” lead single “Stop For a Minute” starts with a melodic and joyous piano-driven vibe, but then features verses from Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan, whose voice is somewhere between Lil’ Jon and will.i.am fed through Autotune. “Back in Time” and “My Shadow” attempt to make things better, but the ghastly cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Ishin Denshin (You’ve Got To Help Yourself)” features the indecipherable and flat voice of Japanese baile-funk singer Tigarah. “Looking Back” brings K’naan back to disappoint again and samples, to cruel effect, “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.
Night Train has nothing more appealing than anything from Keane’s past. Naysayers or newbies to the Brit superstars’ sound may now have a hard time cheering them on; fans will see Keane as clearly lost and this EP as atrocious.
An upstate country boy who was Johnny HighSchool, went to an expensive liberal arts college and took about 20 English classes, went to graduate school in Oregon for a couple years then came back to the Empire state and tried to pass as a city boy for a minute. Now I'm Philly and I love it.