KEANE – Under The Iron Sea (Island)

Keane had a lot to live up to when following up the million selling ‘Hopes And Fears’, but right from the outset, however, I think that they have done it. ‘Atlantic’ opens with an atmospheric piece full of synth and impassioned vocals, before that treated keyboards intro (we are assured that it is not a guitar) to ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ – a great song and the perfect choice for the opening single. ‘Nothing In My Way’ and ‘Leaving So Soon?’ are a couple of their deceptively simple but utterly compelling songs, while ‘A Bad Dream’ is a dreamy ballad with a great off kilter vocal at the end. ‘The Iron Sea’ is a lush instrumental, leading effortlessly into second single ‘Crystal Ball’, and while not quite as good as ‘Is It Any Wonder?’ it still managed a respectable showing in the charts. ‘Try Again’ is one of their trademark ballads, with gentle intro leading into the passionate chorus, and with some more treated organ, that if you didn’t know better you would swear was a guitar. The extended ‘Broken Toy’ is almost prog rock in execution, with a great intro and an unusual choral effect in the middle eight, and the album closes with ‘The Frog Prince’ – an upbeat finale to a fine album. Once again, as with their previous release, you don’t notice that you have just listened to an album completely devoid of guitars, as you are captivated by the actual songs on it. Not only have Keane matched their debut, they have raised the bar even higher for their next album.