Although music snobs turned their noses up at their shamlessly poppy music and public school background, for the first two albums Keane definitely had some endearing qualities. Firstly there was Tom Chaplin’s strident, emotional vocals and they distilled the same sense of euphoria which A-ha created in their widescreen pop phase in the latter half of the 1980’s. However, for last album ‘Perfect Symmetry’, they ditched the pianos for synths and created an album which sold well but felt shallow and dehumanised.
‘Night Train’ is a mini-album recorded during their ‘Perfect Symmetry’ tour, an idea which did little to whet my appetite, initially, but for a so-called “stop-gap” it’s surprisingly serviceable. ‘Back In Time’ is a sturdy opening song. A cynical person like myself might suggest bringing in a Somalian-born rapper is a desperate attempt at street cred. As it happens, ‘Stop For A Minute’ is one of the highlights, Chaplin’s gutsy turn complemented by K’Naan’s guest vocal but it’s the songwriting itself which deserves the most credit. K’Naan guests again for ‘Looking Back’ which includes the theme tune to Rocky of all things. Surprisingly, they strike pop gold again.
‘Ishin Denshin’ is an experiment they may regret, however, unless they really did mean to write a song fit for Eurovision. Thankfully, ‘Clear Skies’ and ‘Your Love’ are present to reclaim the A-ha influences again, as well as a semblance of subtlety. Finally, ‘My Shadow’ sees the piano back in operation and Chaplin’s tender performance offers a tender ballad to end the album with.
‘Night Train’ is a suprising good record which surpasses ‘Perfect Symmetry’ in terms of emotional reach and variety as well songwriting. A couple more of these before they make a “proper” long player would be much appreciated.