When Keane arrived in America two years in support of their debut “Hopes and Dreams,” they came off as a band with a fine singer and a couple of tunes that distilled adolescent romantic angst into catchy anthemic pop. They were the band for people who worried that Coldplay might be getting just a bit too edgy. But emerging with their second album, “Under The Iron Sea” (Interscope), Keane has lost their modesty.
The result is not a sophomore slump but rather an ill-advised inflation; the new songs have been blown up, but their progressive rock pretenses are hollow and thin. Wednesday’s show opened with “The Iron Sea” a slowly building two keyboard fanfare that can give Yes or Jethro Tull a run for their money when it comes to fatuous heraldry.
Tim Rice-Oxley layers the keyboard sounds on with a trowel. Even “Bend And Break” and “Everybody’s Changing” were augmented with extra arpeggios and treated pianos and Richard Hughes’ deliberate, leaden, over-emphatic drumming.
According to singer Tom Chaplin, this is the result of the band’s decision to plumb the “dark side of their souls.” But Chaplin is not a performer with a convincing dark side. Baby faced and armed with a sweet high tenor that slips off the note at the end of every phrase, he comes off as self-obsessed and slickly puerile.
He’s the kind of guy who breaks up with a girl by telling her it’s all her fault: “you look down on me/you don’t know me at all” he whines in “Leaving So Soon?” In “Atlantic,” he entreats his woman to stay with him because “I don’t want to be old and sleep alone.”
The result is that Keane now sounds like what would happen if Bobby Sherman or Donny Osmond fronted a prog rock band.
It’s a mash up that never quite comes together; the grinding, Radiohead-styled keyboards that introduce “Is It Any Wonder?” don’t fit with Chaplin’s fluttery verses. But the high-pitched squeals (and impassioned singalongs) from the mostly young and female aud show that Keane may just be on to something, even if the combination sounds unappetizing to just about anyone else.