Keane: Strangers Review

It perhaps goes without saying that the appeal of this particular release is never going to extend beyond Keane’s fanbase. Strangers devotes two discs to the band, that’s almost three and a half hours worth of footage in total, yet to date they’ve released only a handful of singles and one studio album. How have the discs’ producers managed this feat you may wonder? Essentially they’ve constructed them entirely out of special features; there’s no main attraction here, rather that title goes to the band’s Hopes and Fears. The idea behind this release seems to be that if you’ve picked up that album and wish to know more about the band, then these discs should reveal all. Indeed, there’s enough here to satisfy even the most hardcore of followers.

The discs’ centrepiece – and the item which gives them their name – is a 57-minute documentary by Ed Roe. Split into two halves (30 minutes’ worth on the first disc, 27 on the second) this piece follows the band as they embark on the US of their 2005 tour. Roe is the first to admit that he’s “not a documentary maker” and that Strangers offers nothing more than “a snapshot”. For the most part, in fact, it resembles nothing more than an assemblage of off-the-cuff moments. We see Keane on their tour bus, buying dinner or hanging out backstage – nothing particularly groundbreaking and this proves to be a major problem.

Livening up this footage we do at least find various interviews which collectively aspire to tell the band’s story. Yet here we also find difficulties as their story doesn’t really have anywhere to go. We hear of how they met and how the band formed, but there’s nothing in the way of drama simply because their experiences within the music industry thus far amount to very little. Roe may press for gossip over fights and fallouts, yet each time he comes unstuck; Keane are simply too nice for us to genuinely care. Certainly, if you wish to know their influences (Radiohead and Coldplay, unsurprisingly) or see home movie footage of them covering ‘Paperback Writer’ at an early gig then no doubt you’ll find some merit here, but even then there’s little impetus to return time and again.

That said, it’s important to reiterate that the documentary shouldn’t be considered the main event. Instead it is the sheer wealth of additional bits and pieces (see the right-hand sidebar) which is likely to attract hesitant buyers. Strangers comes with an optional “white rabbit” function which allows the viewer to access various bits footage throughout. When Richard Hughes, for example, moves onto the subject of the band’s breakthrough single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, for example, we’re immediately given a number of options. We can see it performed in concert if we so wish, or watch either of its music videos (different ones being produced for the UK and the US) in their entirety – and the list goes on as the documentary continues. Of course, it’s doubtful that you’ll wish to view everything contained on these discs – the concert visuals, say – but then the sheer comprehensiveness of it all is surely the big selling point.

Moreover, the discs as a whole have been put together with due care and attention. The various promos are in their correct aspect ratios and granted fine presentations, the concert footage (variously recorded in Chicago, New York, Glasgow, Birmingham and London) is competently filmed and unobtrusive, whilst the brief ‘making of’ pieces are suitably low-key and unpretentious. Indeed, despite the wealth of material you never once get the impression that it’s all just been thrown in regardless.

All that leaves then is the kind of buyer who will eagerly lap this all up. There are no concessions to the outsider and no attempts to win over new fans (frankly, not fitting into the category I was swiftly bored despite being impressed by the efforts) meaning that the only thing which will really disappoint those who are likely to make a purchase is the fact that the additional material can only be accessed via the documentary.

The Disc

As said, the discs’ presentations are, on the whole, absolutely fine. Where applicable the image is anamorphically enhanced and as good as we should expect from its various sources. Save for the music videos, we’re largely dealing with digital cameras here and as such the picture quality reflects that. It lacks the texture that celluloid would have provided, but then it’s also free from damage, demonstrates the requisite sharpness and offers up strong colours. (Note also that the disc comes in the NTSC format despite being a UK release.) As for the soundtrack, this really can’t be faulted. Again we’re relying on the source material here (some of the early footage have been shot on camcorder for example), yet the PCM sound ably copes with both the dialogue and the various musical performances. Whether live or taken from the studio, the songs sound as good as they should and as such we really can’t ask for more.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:38:35

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