By his own admission, Keane frontman Tom Chaplin pretty much hit rock bottom a couple of years ago, with his own demons in the form of substance addiction sending him to the Priory. He says he thought he was a goner, he couldn’t breathe and all was collapsing in on him. Bravely, he blames nobody else for bad choices he made. Now, at just 37 this Hastings lad has a chance of enhanced family life and a career revival. Hopefully this is a battle won, maybe a beacon to others similarly afflicted, who knows?
So this album – reviewed here in Deluxe Edition form – arrives with a bunch of topics and questions in-built. In passing and as far as I am aware, this release does not signify the end of Keane and nor should it. Having been near the epicentre of the Faces / Rod Stewart breakthrough era, I can testify that band and solo can co-exist without too much collateral damage – although had Rod brought Ronnie Lane and Mac a song called Do You Think I’m sexy, they would have laughed their backsides off.
It’s not helping me to have no information on who is playing what on these cuts, though Matt Hales is clearly a key collaborator. Take a leaf from Jackson Browne and the jazzers, Tom and give us a break with some details ! I can tell you how each inclusion sounds to me and the very beautiful image-filled booklet is well worth checking out. All the lyrics are there
Still Waiting has a solemn intro and very clear vocal, his voice is mid-range and slightly sandpapered. The drums pound in exactly where you’d expect them to. It sounds very measured, very keyboard-centred. This won’t leave Keane fans adrift. There may be some similarity in the Richard Ashcroft – The Verve situation, in that band’s following don’t hate Ashcroft’s own output, in the main.
Hardened Heart is reflective, with melancholy strings, the words concern his past dilemma. A stark piano starts The River, again Tom sounds lost in thoughts in his head and the intended picture is well-painted, even if the river allegory is somewhat dog-eared post Joni, Nick Drake, Bruce….Worthless Words is winsome and almost whispered out at us, you want to take him for a cup of tea and cheerful chat ! Lyrics this personal can affect even the most hard-hearted. This is the pivotal song in this collection, I suspect.
I Remember You is not the breezy Frank Ifield favourite, rather an own song and insularly reflective. How much better this would have been with a brass band counterpoint. The drum sound throughout this record by the way suffers from studio auto-pilot, adding nothing to the dynamic impact of any of the songs. But that’s contemporary pop for you. Bring The Rain suddenly brings a burst of life and positivity to the programme and the mood lifts, Chaplin sings like there may be a way forward. Not dwelling as much as walking on, the arrangement having a lighter touch, coasting strings and damped guitar chattering. A completely effective and uplifting song, easily the best so far. Add some electric piano and you’d have a Number One single, I venture.
Hold On To Our Love brings us back to the reflective and is a good composition about communication; Quicksand uses a deeper vocal range and centres on rescue. Chaplin sings with power and feel. Solid Gold hovers rather too closely to self-pity, which Tom professes a wish to avoid, overall. Lovely melody and would have made a fine duet with a Corr; See It So Clear is a tad too prisoner-of-the-past.
The Wave is poetic but makes me think of Art Garfunkel. Better Way is the first of five bonus songs on this edition and has a ghostly shoreline ambience and horrible oil-drum percussion. Turning Back uses delayed-piano over a hymnal melody; Love Wins is another sad song, sang with clarity. Cheating Death has great lyrics and a solemn tempo. A good enough number to be in the main sequence, I think. Bound Together has story with a happy end but sparse backing.
The last Graham Nash album centred upon his current mental state and concerns and had a dark, sombre overall feel. But it was the record he had to make in order to move on. This is precisely what Chaplin has done with The Wave. The ambience of this record is largely cold and the booming drums are part of that, as are the relentless keyboards but maybe Tom can now walk into the sunshine and find the life balance he veered away from. I hope he does
Tom Chaplin’s debut solo album ‘The Wave’ is out now on Island Records. For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2fum2eB
In addition, Tom Chaplin will be embarking on a 14-date tour of the UK and Ireland in May 2017. You can find out more information about venues and tickets here: http://bit.ly/2e3B7za