Keane - Hopes and Fears (Deluxe)
The release of this deluxe edition of Keane’s multi-platinum selling debut album Hopes and Fears will be a real treat for die-hard fans. Not only is it chock full of tasty extras, it is also an interesting and entertaining chronicle of both the band’s and album’s evolution.
It may seem like a classic overnight success story: young band’s first album selling somewhere in the region of 8 million copies, Brit and Q Awards for best album, an Ivor Novello award for lyricist Tim Rice-Oxley, but it was a journey of nearly ten years. From their early formation as The Lotus Eaters to the band’s early releases on their Zoomorphic label (sold at their concerts and now highly sought after collector’s items) and later on Fierce Panda Records, this two disc CD collection paints a picture of a talented and ambitious band who very early on in their formation already had a clear idea of the direction they wanted to go in.
CD 1 starts off with the album itself. As albums go Hopes and Fears isn’t the most ground-breaking or earth-shattering of debuts, but the piano-centric songs, Rice-Oxley’s lyrics of hopes, fears and doubts given life from Chaplin’s dreamy vocals, coupled with the slick production do make the twelve songs feel like a cohesive whole. The stand out tracks - ‘Bend And Break’, ‘Your Eyes Open’ and the splendid ‘Bedshaped’ - feel both familiar and new, like old friends you haven’t seen in a while. Included on the disc are the band’s performances on both Lamacq Live and Jo Wiley’s Live Lounge, including ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, ‘Bedshaped’, ‘Bend and Break’ as well as an odd rendition of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’ with Tom Chaplin sounding like he’s singing along to an out of sync music box. This is Keane in a very pretty heart-shaped box. But even more interesting is what happens when the lid comes off.
CD 2 is where the fun begins. After the b-side ‘Snowed Under’ and the very forgettable DJ Shadow remix of ‘We Might As Well Be Strangers’ we are treated to the band’s earliest recordings. The bizarre and very uncharacteristic demo ‘Into The Light’, punctuated with staccato synthesizers and Chaplin’s whiny vocals, feels like the band experimenting with a direction they were thinking of taking, but makes you very glad they didn’t. The next six songs are the early Zoomorphic releases, officially collected here for the first time. ‘Call Me What You Like’ is wonderful and something you wish the band would do more often, as are ‘Come Closer’, ‘Rubbernecking’ and the excellent rocker ‘Wolf At The Door’. Hearing these songs you begin to realize how much spontaneity and originality had been strangled out of the band. Outside the tight constraints of their over-produced debut album the band demonstrate a side to them that is rarely seen. The vocals are freer and more powerful and the electric and acoustic guitars give the songs an edginess and depth missing from Hopes and Fears.
The Fierce Panda recordings, including early demos of ‘Everybody’s Changing’, ‘The Is The Last Time’ and ‘Bedshaped’, as well as the previously unreleased tracks ‘The Way You Want It’ and the beautiful ‘Allemande’, clearly demonstrate the route the band had decided on: this is the sound and the songs that would eventually become Hopes and Fears - the second biggest selling album of 2004. Tagged on the end is a four-song live EP originally released in 2005. These live recordings showcase what a top-notch live band Keane are. The songs are given a life and warmth that is somewhat lacking in the original recordings.
Keane are often compared with Coldplay, for no real reason other than they use piano, but Rice-Oxley, Chaplin and Hughes’ music possesses a sincerity and depth that this writer doesn't get from Chris Martin and the boys’ oft over-blown offerings. The band's follow-up releases Under The Iron Sea and Perfect Symmetry do demonstrate a darker and more adventurous sound reminiscent of the earlier Zoomorphic recordings. Rumours are that the band will continue in that direction for their forthcoming album.
Overall? An intriguing insight into the past and, perhaps, the future.