“We are about songs” – said Richard Hughes in an Australian television interview back in 2004 when asked by an interviewer what Keane was all about. This was during the early days of Keane in the commercial limelight. Richard’s answer seemed somewhat simplistic and almost silly at first. “I mean…duh!!! what would a pop/rock band be about???”. That being said, he made an honest and valid point. Keane emerged at a time when the music industry had lost its way both commercially and artistically. The creative element of music had become so de-emphasized in comparison to absolutely everything else. Richard continued to say that Keane was NOT an image-based band. That statement could not be any truer. Keane did not need to resort to any sort of media trick to compensate for deficiencies in their music. There were absolutely no deficiencies. A critic once referred to them as “master manipulators of melody”. He totally hit the nail on the head. Over the years, melody had become an increasingly optional element in music. Expensive production and featured rappers on pop tracks seemed to distract most music consumers from the fact that what they were listening to at the time Keane emerged was largely inferior. Tim Rice-Oxley’s god-given gift for churning out beautiful melodies and Tom Chaplin’s achingly beautiful but yet powerful vocals served as a potent combination. Keane was a band destined for greatness – and that they most certainly have achieved.
In November, to celebrate the end of the band’s first chapter, Keane is releasing a “best of” compilation which features two new tracks. The new single, “Higher Than The Sun” is one of those two tracks. It surfaced earlier today and has already elicited passionate responses from Keane fans. I have always sympathized with Tim Rice-Oxley – the band’s principal songwriter. His musical talent forces critics like me to hold him to a higher standard with each musical offering for Keane. The band, along with him, hit a new high with their “return to roots” album titled “Strangeland“. The flipside to musical greatness is the expectations that bands leave fans with. Die-hard Keane fans will gravitate to absolutely anything Keane releases. The skeptics might ask how new music by Keane holds up in comparison with some of the defining tracks of the band’s musical legacy. As a critic, I am forced to lean towards the mode of the latter group – especially with regard to the band’s new single “Higher Than The Sun“.
The band begins with some down-tempo old-school percussion. The verses sound very pedestrian and sparse in their production. The chorus, on the other hand has a sing-out-loud quality with a rock-tinged sound but yet is not particularly memorable. The lyrics aren’t particularly interesting either.
We’re higher than the sun
And nothing’s gonna change the way I’m feeling now
May you go on and on
It’s never gonna take away the feeling now.
Interestingly enough, the song’s high point is its achingly beautiful Middle 8. Tom Chaplin’s vocals are bound to induce a weak moment in the hearts of listeners with this bit. On first listen, one cannot help but try to establish where this song fits alongside the rest of the brilliance that these Sussex lads have churned out in their decade-long career. It veers closer to the band’s b-sides in terms of overall quality – which is not necessarily a bad thing given some of the band’s stellar b-sides. But in the spirit of being objective, I hate to admit that the song does pale in comparison to some of the band’s career-defining singles. This makes it hard to emphatically state that the song will serve as a catalyst to “sell” the musical gem that “The Best Of Keane” undoubtedly is. My guess is that it is not. Fortunately, the upcoming compilation does not require any special “selling” effort. It will sell very well regardless and will not need any momentum from “Higher Than The Sun“. This is a good thing – since it is unlikely that “Higher Than The Sun” will provide much of that. Here is a full-length audio clip of the single:
STAR RATING: 3.5/5
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