Keane: if you can’t, in a matter of seconds, link the name to a face, then they have accomplished their goal. Believe me, you know them. I'll tell you more, you know at least three of their songs, one of them being a major Coldplay-like hit and the other being played in Grey’s Anatomy. Sussex-born band Keane have begun their musical career wanting to retreat from the spotlight rather than push themselves forward to become idols, and their new release, Cause and Effect, is all about how they’ve grown.
The success of the single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ in 2004 is what marked their step from indie-pop into mainstream pop, consecrating the record it belongs to, Hopes and Fears, to the altar of easy-listening yet thought-provoking pop. But what’s so different about their new release?
The obvious answer would be that 15 years have elapsed since that iconic album. And that, I would argue, is the whole point. Growth, mid-life crisis streaming into the veins of pop – it rarely happens. Pop icons are immortal and forever young in the collective eye, yet Cause and Effect is here to prove us wrong.
It all begins on track one: the angst, the stream of consciousness, the fear and thirst for the unknown – ‘You’re Not Home’ abandons the Hopes and embraces the Fears of the band. By the end of the track, we are ready to accept the heartbreak, no matter how painful the disappointment is, and we jump on track two with a whole new worldview. ‘Love Too Much’ and ‘The Way I Feel’, the two incidental tracks, are the perfect singles in my opinion. But, far from being just that, they follow a specific agenda: they are upbeat, soaring ballads but there is no happy ending. ‘A broken limb, a missing part, a punctured wheel’: there is no silver lining, but there’s the validation of feelings and the will to push forward no matter what. ‘Strange Room’ is an ageless lullaby about things we want yet are bound to never happen to us.
‘Friend / I’ve done something stupid / again’ starts ‘Stupid Things’, who can’t relate? Especially when lyrics and melody force us to move our attention from the final product to the journey; it’s all about the journey.
Cause and Effect, although of great quality, is no work of art. What makes it unique, however, is that it’s disarmingly sincere; it’s brutally honest but never pushes towards the nearest exit, never encourages you to quit without a fight. Forward is the only way we can go, and there is no time and place in which you can share a table with happiness alone.
Winning, loving, whining, losing: it’s all part of the equation. Growing up is what’s fuelling this record. And yeah, in a way it’s reassuring to know you can be halfway through your life, having achieved some of your dreams and goals and have your name printed on billboards, and still be a total mess, still have questions, but most importantly, still longing and fighting for the answers.