From The Published Archives: Keane’s Night Train EP

In late November 2010, I pitched an idea that was forwarded via email to the editor of Monkeybiz.ca.  Are you interested in a review of the latest Keane CD, I asked?  She was.  So, as requested, I submitted my finished review to one of her co-workers who had begun assisting her earlier that year.  The co-worker had become a fan of my work so I figured once all the usual negotiating over edits was concluded (which could sometimes be incredibly annoying), it would be posted tout de suite.

Unfortunately, there would be no further communications for the rest of the year.  As the weeks and months ticked by, I thought about firing off another email to find out what the hold-up was.  It wasn’t until late June 2011 that I finally did so.  Curiously, even after all that time, there was still no response.  A month later, the aforementioned editing assistant (who had since become the new editor (but now works for a marketing company)) finally got back to me after another email request for an update.

Deeply apologetic about the delay (she said she had technical difficulties accessing her old work email account), she asked me to re-submit the review to her new email address.  About a week after the second submission, I finally got notes and suggestions for my piece.  After making some minor revisions and additions, the finished review was finally published on Monkeybiz on July 29, 2011, 8 months after the original pitch.

Despite the long road it took to get to this point, I was generally pretty happy with the posted review.  However, for this Published Archives reposting, I’ve made a couple of minor changes.  I never felt it was necessary to add the phrase “British techno pioneer” next to Gary Numan’s name (the editor wanted “context” in case readers were unfamiliar with him).  It’s now been excised.  By the way, if you don’t know who Mr. Numan is, now you do.  (The editor also wanted me to add “Beach Boy” to Brian Wilson which I did reluctantly even though I complained that it was completely unnecessary.  (“Anyone who knows even basic music history knows who Brian Wilson is,” I wrote to her in an email at the time.)  Curiously, “Beach Boy” never did end up in the finished edit.)  And “aforementioned” has been restored to paragraph 8.  Sounds anal, I know, but welcome to my world.

Keane’s Night Train: An Album Review

Posted on July 29 2011 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

There’s a haunting, familiar elegance about Tom Chaplin’s voice. Even when he’s tormented by lost love or his own broken spirit, he still sounds remarkably pure and comforting. He’s the melancholic son Brian Wilson never knew he had.

Chaplin’s extraordinarily moving vocal style resonates throughout Night Train, the latest entertaining release from Keane, the brilliant British band he’s been leading for more than a decade.

More of a mini-album than a full-length release, this solid follow-up to Perfect Symmetry continues the recent experimental expansion of the band’s original keyboard-bass-drum sound. On Perfect Symmetry, they added a lead guitar. On this one, we get brief yet welcome forays into hip hop and world pop.

With the exception of the pointless yet thankfully short percussive instrumental opener House Lights, which for the most part is forgettable nonsensical chatter backed by experimental noise, the CD never steps wrong.

The synthesizers are front and centre right at the start of Back in Time, a chill-inducing wrencher that wouldn’t be out of place in Gary Numan’s repertoire.

The keyboards are pulled out again for Your Love, a song so electronically retro you’re convinced it was released in 1986, not 2010.  Curiously, it’s multi-instrumentalist/producer Tom Rice-Oxley who handles the lead vocals here.

He does a lovely job conveying the undying pain of lost love and the reluctance to leave it in the past. He should sing more often. The strong, meaty lyrics work well with the retro arrangement.

Canadian rapper K’naan provides the aforementioned hip hop element to two songs, both of which deal with the lasting impact of regret.

Stop for a Minute mourns the loss of an important romance due to chronic infidelity. Like Your Love, the protagonist is unable to let go of an essential partner. However, there’s also far more second guessing about the character’s overall decision-making capabilities: “Sometimes I wanna change everything I’ve ever done.”

While not nearly as moving as Back in Time, its reflective, philosophical nature gets to you in a deeply personal way nonetheless.

The bouncy Looking Back warns of the addictive nature of nostalgia and how it interferes with the joys of daily living: “Don’t waste your time just looking back.” Recreating part of the Rocky theme song as its basic hook, Chaplin’s soothing vocals are insistent on closure as he persuasively urges a reconnection to the present.

An acoustic guitar is brought out for the lovely Clear Skies. Accented by handclaps amidst a Spanish atmosphere, it reminded me a bit of U2’s When I Look at the World.

To alleviate the heavy nature of Night Train, Keane offers an unexpected, disco-flavoured cover. Japanese trio Yellow Magic Orchestra originally wrote and recorded Ishin Denshin back in 1983.

For the reworking, Keane harmonizes in English on every chorus while guest vocalist Tigarah handles the verses in Japanese. Her low-key singing never overpowers you, which is quite the contrast from Chaplin’s creamy vocals on other songs, but it suits the piece just the same.

Even though Ishin Denshin sounds more like a potential B-side than a necessary inclusion here, it’s unlike anything else in their catalogue. Think of it as a catchy throwaway and nothing more.

The closer, My Shadow, on the other hand, is vintage Keane with its instantly distinguishable keyboard sound and heartfelt, yearning lyrics. The song is so cinematic with its emotional sweep it wouldn’t have been out of place in a John Hughes movie. Come to think of it, much of this record has that feel about it.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 22, 2013
11:46 p.m.

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Published in: on September 22, 2013 at 11:46 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] after the long delayed publication of my positive assessment of Keane’s Night Train EP in July 2011, the editor emailed me asking if I would be interested in doing another CD review right away.  Of […]


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