Keane - Biography



 

 

           London's Keane were the band who many hoped would carry Coldplay's torch of accessible, sensitive guy-rock when the latter band made their way into a more artsy arena. Even since their debut, however, Keane were more like Travis than Coldplay, putting forth a set of plaintive love songs that echoed the earnestness of Travis' The Man Who more than the darker tendencies of Coldplay's Parachutes. Since then, Keane have been a rather confusing trio, relegating themselves to that piano/drums/vocals attack while still trying to make their second album sound explosive, then attempting to recapture the guilty pleasure of 80's synth-pop on their third. With each failed experiment, Tom Chaplin's soaring voice is still something that can stop listeners in their tracks, and Keane are still one of Britain's biggest bands. But when will that songwriting breakthrough everyone's talking about finally occur?

 

            In 1997, Keane began as longtime friends in Battle (a small town in East Sussex, England) who simply wanted to play other people's songs. The lineup contained Chaplin on vocals, Tim Rice-Oxley on piano, Richard Hughes on drums, and Dominic Scott on guitar. Scott had previously played in a cover band called the Lotus Eaters, which also included Hughes and Rice-Oxley. The quartet toured the East Sussex venues, playing Oasis songs, as well as numbers by the Beatles and U2, a band that would become Keane's most audible influence. Soon enough, they felt a necessity to begin writing their own songs, and by 1998, they started building up a repertoire of original compositions. Although things were going relatively well, Chaplin decided to leave the band in favor of Edinburgh University, where he would study art history. The lapse only lasted for one year, however, as Chaplin was back in 1999,  ready to give his full concentration to Keane. The group soon released a single all by themselves, called “Call Me What You Like.” Another single, “Wolf at the Door,” surfaced in 2001 before Scott, expressing a need to return to the London School of Economics to finish his studies, was out of the fold in July. Unlike Chaplin, Scott would not return, and he would not be replaced either, as the remaining three Keane members decided to make use of their unique situation. The combination of just piano, drums, and vocals was a rare one in pop music, and whether or not it had a lessening effect on their all-around sound, it was a successful marketing tool.

 

            In the winter of 2002, a representative of Fierce Panda Recordings named Simon Williams was informed that he should attend a Keane show in London, which he did. Williams, who is also responsible for the discovery of Coldplay, offered to release Keane's next single based on the strength of the performance he witnessed. That single was called “Everybody's Changing” and was a hit on UK radio, so much so that many major labels became very interested in the group. Keane ultimately went with Island Records, but not before releasing one more single on Fierce Panda called “This is the Last Time,” by the end of 2003. Hopes and Fears (Interscope) came out in 2004 in May, exactly one day before the band embarked on their first tour. The album reached the very top of the UK charts within its first week of release, even beating out You Are the Quarry, by the UK legend Morrissey. Two Brit Awards were bestowed upon the band in 2005 for Best Breakthrough Act and Best Album. Perhaps an even greater achievement was Rice-Oxton's reception of the Ivor Novello Award for songwriter of the year three months later. Meanwhile, the song “Somewhere Only We Know” had gained attention and praise not only in the UK, but in the US as well, where it reached number 50 on the Billboard hot 100.

Even the Grammies acknowledged Keane's popularity, nominating them for Best New Artist, an award they would lose to R&B singer John Legend. Hopes and Fears finished up the year as the second best-selling album of 2005, barely losing to the Scissor Sisters' eponymous debut. Keane were soon selected as openers for U2's world tour, and their Live Recordings EP was a success in the meantime.

 

            For the group's next album, they kept everything virtually the same. The band returned to the same studio in which they recorded Hopes and Fears, Heliocentric Studios in Rye, East Sussex, and they brought with them the same producer from those sessions, Andy Green, to make Under the Iron Sea (2006, Interscope). With its war-torn lyrical content, and often epic-sounding songwriting, Iron Sea was a noticeably darker affair than the lovelorn but altogether lighthearted Hopes and Fears. The album debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and hit number one on the UK charts on the strength of “Is it Any Wonder?,” the most successful single of the band's career. Critics were hesitant to give the album praise. Though it was simply another set of mostly consistent material, there were some failed sonic experiments, and even the guitar distortion of Rice-Oxley's keyboards on “Is it Any Wonder?” proved to be a bit much. Obviously, most fans saw it as an improvement, and anticipated the forthcoming world tour. However, on August 22nd, 2006, before the commencement of that tour could take place, Chaplin announced his self-admittance to London's Priory Clinic to combat his varied substance abuse problems. This ultimately led to the complete cancellation of the North American leg of the band's tour. Chaplin left the clinic that October, but has undergone further treatment since then.

 

            Guitars had managed to squirm their way into Keane's stage show, and many assumed that the band's next LP would be a lot more guitar-incorporated. Guitars were definitely in use for the new album's lead-off single, “Spiralling,” but all in all, Perfect Symmetry was more defined by its 80's influenced, synthesized sheen than by its guitars. The album was a supposed reinvention of Keane's sound and was billed as the group's artistic departure. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment in that regard, and critics felt about them what they always had; that the band's creative song-writing chops were simply not in the same league as U2's, which poses a significant problem, given that the Irish fab four are the band that Keane is most often compared to. But still, do their fans care about such things? The answer lies in the UK charts, where Perfect Symmetry found itself perfectly situated at number one within its first week of release. Keane released the Night Train EP in 2010. Strangeland was relesaed in 2012.

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