Peachy Keane

Peachy Keane

By Gilbert Garcia

Like Ben Folds Five, the British trio Keane eschews guitars in favor of a piano-bass-drums format. But the two bands have little else in common.

Folds' band was perpetually smart-alecky and spare, a product of the irreverent Amerindie underground. By comparison, Keane spares nothing in its attempt to make big, sweeping, orchestral pop that breaks the bounds of irony and unabashedly shoots for redemption. Its touchstones are British romantic brooders like Badfinger's Pete Ham and Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

Keane credits all its material to the entire group, so it's hard to pin down the source of its majestic melodies, but vocalist Tom Chaplin is clearly the group's greatest asset. Chaplin's angelic tenor has a built-in grandeur about it, an all-encompassing ache that rarely turns overbearing.

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On tracks like "Somewhere Only We Know" and the gorgeous "Bend and Break," Keane takes simple, enigmatic language and elevates it to catharsis. The melancholy implications of the band's lush textures come to the surface with the anthemic "This Is the Last Time" ("This is the last time/that I will show my face/One last tender lie/and then I'm out of this place") and "Everybody's Changing," the song that first attracted UK attention for the band.

Over the course of this fine debut album, the lush sameness of the production starts to wear thin, and the group occasionally slips into a blandness reminiscent of Tears for Fears (one of their admitted influences). But Keane's best work feels risky because it refuses to hide behind emotional detachment or clever wordplay. These days, it occasionally requires guts to be wimpy. •

By Gilbert Garcia


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