Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Album of the Day #118: PERFECT SYMMETRY - Keane

Title: Perfect Symmetry
Artist: Keane
Label: Interscope
Released: 2008
Songs: Spiraling/The Lovers Are Losing/Better Than This/You Haven’t Told Me Anything/Perfect Symmetry/You Don’t See Me/Again And Again/Playing Along/Pretend That You’re Alone/Black Burning Heart/Love Is The End
Written by: Keane
Produced by: Jon Brion, Stuart Price & Keane
Thoughts: For Keane’s latest album, they’ve introduced guitars, but, no surprise, “Spiralling” hardly features any guitar use. The track is a blazing send up to mid-80’s ballads, giving the song a harder rock sensibility than anything on Under The Iron Sea or Hopes And Fears. “The Lovers Are Losing” is the first of several songs that go over the five minute mark and the track is very moving. I love the amount of devotion you get out of the vocals. The one major change you hear, even more so than any guitars, in these first two songs, is the amount of backing vocals. The first two albums gave Keane an identity of a quiet, calming vocal over a spacious blend of bass, keyboards, piano and percussion. Here, they change all of that and, I think, proving that they are even more of a stronger group.
“Better Than This” is probably the first weak link on the album, but “You Haven’t Told Me Anything” picks up where “Spiralling” left off, with a driving dance-friendly rhythm. The title track, a first for Keane, is actually very much in the vein of the material from the first two albums. It’s a good song, but almost seems like it was recorded much earlier than the songs that surround it. “You Don’t See Me” is a ballad much like “Try Again” on Under The Iron Sea, so it feels like we are going backwards, as if Keane has negated the progress made on the first four songs. Thankfully, the second half blasts opens with the “Again and Again”, which livens things up. The synths on this track bring back that 80’s influence that was apparent on “Spiralling” and “You Haven’t Told Me Anything”. “Playing Along” feels like the true debut of guitars on a Keane album, because they are actually integral to the song. It has this very moving melody and it feels like they are saying hello to ‘true’ rock music. (It’s sort of like their personal “My Back Pages”, where they say farewell to one form of music to another.) Next is the rolling, quick “Pretend That You’re Alone”. It has this great little guitar riff, almost as if they learned how to play guitar just by listening to RAM and then there’s a great horn section that comes out of nowhere. The track is really fun, showing that Keane really can just relax and have fun. “Pretend…” melts into the much more serious “Black Burning Heart”. The track provides a nice climax for everything and has great success with mixing the old Keane with this new 80’s-influenced Keane. Perfect Symmetry closes with “Love Is The End”, a great ballad that closes the album perfectly. After all the cacophony that preceded it, it’s nice to hear a classic, soft closer to put everything to bed.
Perfect Symmetry is a rather odd title, considering the album itself does not have perfect symmetry between musical styles. If anything, the group failed at doing something like their own Bringing It All Back Home. They tried to mix their old bass/piano/drums mix with a new guitars/bass/drums/piano sound. The album is filled to the brim with good songs, it’s just that we are stuck with a rather schizophrenic band that obviously wants to change, but not depart from their familiar alt. rock style. What makes it a good listening experience, though is that the guitar songs are not such a departure from those without that they sound out of place. You can still tell it’s the same band.

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