Keane are back. After over 8 million sales of Hopes And Fears (2004) and Under The Iron Sea (2006) combined, sold-out arena tours, awards spanning Ivor Novellos to BRITs, plus an undeniable collection of hits including "Is It Any Wonder?," "Everybody's Changing," "Crystal Ball" and "Somewhere Only We Know," one of Britain's best-loved bands are about to surprise and thrill all over again.
Avowed believers in never retreading old ground, Tom Chaplin, Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes return with Perfect Symmetry, a Technicolor explosion of stellar pop songs and pure, unashamed energy; the joy in which is audible in every finger-click and life-affirming chorus. As different as piano-helmed classic debut Hopes And Fears was from its darker cousin Under The Iron Sea, Perfect Symmetry finds Keane at the height of their powers. Confirming Rice-Oxley's position as one of the finest British songwriters to emerge this decade, the 11-song set sees Keane throwing any last vestiges of caution to the wind and simply letting the music take them where it will. The result is a thrillingly bold album that's as pleasurable to listen to as it was to make.
While millions of paid-up Keane fans will immediately recognise Perfect Symmetry as a body of work that could have come from no other group, others are likely to be knocked sideways by their various leaps into uncharted territory. Indeed, after hearing download-record-breaking first taste Spiralling, it's possible you might not have even recognised it the work of "the Somewhere Only We Know band". Certainly, Perfect Symmetry is the first Keane album to feature musical saw, saxophone, vocals recorded through a drum; studio sessions in Berlin, Paris and London; their first self produced album, with input from esteemed producers Jon Brion (Rufus Wainwright; Kanye West) and Stuart Price (Madonna; Les Rhythmes Digitales) and the sound of three men yelping a delighted Ã?Oooh!' as virtually the first thing you hear.
"We've always said we want to challenge ourselves," says Hughes. "Most bands, when they release an album, always say they've pushed themselves. But we're all music lovers and we sit there and read these things and think 'Great, can't wait to hear it!' and then you put it on and you think 'Oh. Hang on a minute...'"
"There's nothing that our record company would have loved more than for us to have delivered Hopes And Fears three times," he continues. "But we've already done one, and one's enough."
"I think by a million miles it's the best thing we've put together," says Chaplin. "I can't wait for people to hear it."
Keane wound up the Under The Iron Sea tour on August 5, 2007. A couple of charity gigs aside, they then took time out for family, friends and a well-earned breather, not reconvening again until mid-January 2008. It was to prove the right decision. "With the second record we went straight off the road into the studio when we really needed a break and that sowed the seeds for a lot of problems which have been quite well-documented. We learned from that this time." says Hughes.
Pooling the first batch of ideas in their 'Barn' studio in southern England (somewhere that's provided a bolthole for the last few years) Keane then decamped to Paris in mid-February, having booked a couple of days recording time with Jon Brion, the maverick producer as regarded for his soundtrack work as that with US pop acts. Though Perfect Symmetry would end up being almost entirely self-produced, Brion's input in that short time proved revelatory. "We looked at hip-hop records where they have multiple producers and you never get that with pop or rock records," says Hughes. "That was part of the thinking there, so Jon came to Paris to work with us for three days before setting off to work on the soundtrack for the new Charlie Kaufman movie."