Keane Under the Iron Sea

The lifespan of bands following the "big sky” rock opuses Coldplay have laid out perfectly for others to undertake really depends on which path they choose to take. Judging by Snow Patrol’s latest they’ve blown their chances of repeating their success and much can be said about Keane with their second album. As far as "wuss rock” goes, Keane were the archetypal band in 2004 when they debuted with Hopes & Fears. The fact that they use a compact piano (no Baby Grand, they’re "rockers”) to compensate for the missing guitars really struck a chord with soccer moms and investment bankers, but really, it just wrote off their chances of ever being accepted by the cool school. Under the Iron Sea is meant to be their stab at upping the rock factor, and in some instances it is; the Achtung Baby-inspired (guitar?) riff of "Hamburg Song” is a sign of breaking out of their stiff mould, but it’s also unforgivably beastly, and ruins the promising hook that graces the chorus. "The Frog Prince” takes an even bigger chance, trying desperately to emulate the kind of emotive arrangement Sigor Ròs can write much better in their sleep. Other than that, what we have here is a trio of soft lifers who need to go back to the drawing board, because everything I felt guilty for in admiring about Keane the first time around has been abandoned for tuneless MOR schlock. (Interscope)