Under the Iron Sea Import
『Under The Iron Sea(邦題『アンダー・ザ・アイアン・シー―深海―』)』はニューヨーク、ソーホーのマジック・ショップでレコーディングし、本国イギリスへもどってからバトル近くのヘリオセントリック・スタジオで作業したものだ。 このアルバムを作るために、僕らは自分たちの最悪の怖れすべてに向かい合おうとした。容赦なく自分と、そしてバンド仲間同士の関係、他の人たちとの関係、世界との関係を見つめ直し、見つけだせる極限まで暗い場所へと旅するためだ。 だから、このアルバムの曲作りとレコーディング中の雰囲気はものすごく集中したものになったし、最終的な曲や音にもそこが大きく反映されているんだ。不気味で歪んだおとぎ話のような曲を作った。光の届かない鉄の海の底にある暗い場所に代表される混乱と麻痺の感覚。そうしたものすべてを表現するために、古い電子ピアノや、さまざまなアナログシンセ、ビンテージのギター・エフェクトのペダルの組み合わせを酷使してまったく新しい音を作りだしたんだよ。衝突音からディストーションの激しくぶ厚い音までを表現した。 ドライヴ感、集中力、激情を込めて曲を書き、歌い、演奏した。以前の音楽からは想像もつかないほどにね。 このアルバムをビジュアル面でも強烈な存在にすることが重要だった。その手始めが「Atlantic」でのアーヴィン・ウェルシュとのコラボレーションだった。僕らに刺激を与え、僕らの音楽に彼も刺激を受けてくれた。 ウェルシュが監督を務めてくれたビデオは僕らが切望していたビジュアル上の個性重視を反映したものになったよ。 『Under The Iron Sea』を書いたのは自分たちがまた生きているっていう感覚を持てるアルバムが必要だったからだ。
Atlantic – This particular song is a gloomy and ethereal reflection on fear and aging and loneliness and the desire of a loved one to help life be more pleasant. One of the most touching aspects of this song, for me, is the way the song ends on an unresolved chord, reflecting the unresolved nature of the narrator’s longing.
Is It Any Wonder? – This song, a relatively successful single off of the album, features a distorted piano, and gloomily reflects upon exhaustion and frustration. The song has architectural referents, as well as commenting that love in our times and situations is something known only from children’s rhymes, which seems all too true.
Nothing In My Way – This is a song about divided lovers, reflecting on divorce or breaking up, problems setting and respecting boundaries, and putting on a false front of cheer to hide feeling dismal and despondent. The song’s title is deeply ironic, reflecting the deception of appearing to be happy when one is deeply troubled.
Leaving So Soon? – This sad song, which is reflecting on a troubled friendship or relationship of some kind, comments on the sad fate of someone opening up about themselves, and seeing to one’s sadness that others find it too much to take, and quickly leave. The comparison of a friendship or relationship with plants is notable here.
A Bad Dream – This dark and melancholy song was a moderately successful single in the United Kingdom especially, and it reflects on death, the loss of friendships, and the feeling that someone has become the sort of person one was born to hate. It is the sensation of waking up from tormented sleep only to realize that one’s day-to-day existence is a torment as well.
Hamburg Song – This song, which is an organ ballad, is a reflection on a desire for friendship and the feeling that one’s generosity is taken advantage of because one is diffident and relatively undemanding. It is a song full of longing and suffering, and is a beautiful song despite its deep mood of sadness.
Put It Behind You – This song, is yet another breakup sort of song, where the narrator seems to parody the sort of lame self-help clichés that tend to be used to cheer people up in such a situation. The song urges people to do what is best for them, but that is precisely the sort of problem many of us face in life, not being able to do that or sometimes even to know what is best for us.
The Iron Sea – This is the sort of song that a band puts in an album as Grammy bait in order to attempt to snag a nomination for best rock instrumental. This song, coming in at almost 3:30, would have been worthy of such a nomination, as its spooky and menacing feeling compliments the album well.
Crystal Ball – This song is an up-tempo but downbeat song about the search for something to tell us who we are, when all we see is our despondent and catatonic state, no matter whether we try to fall on the earth or call upon God in heaven. The song appears to be about feeling lost and seeking salvation, not only in an ultimate sense, but in the sense of present overwhelming troubles.
Try Again – This song, like “Put It Behind You,” is an attempt to move forward and recover what was lost in a troubled relationship. It speaks of dysfunctional fighting, about being so exhausted that one falls asleep on the train, and about not wanting to see people who bring us suffering but feeling compelled to try again anyway.
Broken Toy – This is a song that, like “Is It Any Wonder?” appears to reflect on childhood, as the narrator feelings like a broken toy. It is a sad and spare ballad, and seems to hint at a darker undertone to the gloominess of the album as a whole.
The Frog Prince – Yet another song that uses a childlike and dreamlike image to reflect a reality, this is a song about the isolation and ruin that result from putting on an image of coolness and having the hollow reality become evident to others. The song reflects a longing for innocence, for transparency, and for a lack of faith that such qualities are to be found to a great degree in our contemporary society.
Unlike the attempt to balance out hopes and fears in their previous album, here Keane seems to succumb to despair in their sophomore album. Over and over again the songs reflect loneliness, isolation, torment, and the breakup of relationships, and the fear of reality. The songs point back to a time of lost innocence that seems forever beyond recovery, and the façade that is placed to cover one’s insecurities and vulnerabilities appears like an iron sea that imprisons the tender heart beneath. If one wished to dig even deeper into the album, this song seems to reflect a far deeper trauma than the usual suffering of broken relationships and fickle friends, but suggests a far more disturbing root of the complicated tangle of problems that lie beneath this album’s melancholy material. The fact that this album was my favorite album of 2006, the year my father died, and that it still to this day reflects my own mood and concerns and issues is something I find rather disconcerting, but so it is.
That described me, about a year ago. I absolutely loved "Hopes and Fears," but wasn't sure how much staying power Keane could have within the confines of their instrumentation. Strangely, though the reviews here were mostly positive, they deterred me from buying UTIS. The general impression given by the reviews was that the second release was good, not as spectacular as the first, not as catchy, maybe a bit different due to its release during a period of conflicts within the band.
So I didn't buy UTIS. What a mistake. I only recently received it as a gift and now realize what I've been missing for oh these many months.
Is it as good as the first one? That's awfully lofty company - the first album was an instant classic, 11 good tracks, 6-7 of them *extremely* good, and the first five in a row on the album absolutely fantastic. Packed with the catchiest hooks we've heard in many a year.
But I may like the second album even more. There's a greater depth and cohesion to it, and there is certainly much more versatility in the sound. On some of the pieces you'll swear you're hearing guitar (The Edge's guitar, to be precise.)
But mostly, the second album has an emotional intensity to it that only "Somewhere Only We Know" matches on the first one. There are four tracks on it that truly blow me away: "Nothing In My Way," "Hamburg Song," "Crystal Ball," and "Try Again."
"Hamburg Song" and "Try Again" are both gorgeous ballads, sung beautifully by Chaplin. Don't listen to these songs if you are in a relationship that is falling apart; they'll kill you. Hell, I'm happily married, in my 40s, with family, and they set my mind back to tragic relationships of long ago. "Try Again" may be Chaplin's finest vocal performance on either album.
"Crystal Ball" is the generally considered most infectious tune on the record, but I find "Nothing in My Way" the most durable and haunting.
I've heard Keane compared to Coldplay, which I find ridiculous. Yes, singers in both bands sometimes have a breathy delivery, and the music is sometimes quietly powerful. But the similarities end there. We haven't heard any pop singer as accomplished as Chaplin for years, and certainly no other current pop band matches Keane's gift for melodic songwriting, not even close. The comparisons really degrade the unique quality of Keane's craftsmanship.
And craftsmanship really is what it is all about on this record - well, craftsmanship and therapy. Keane does the little things that turn good songs into great ones. "Crystal Ball" has an OK verse, a very fine chorus, but becomes a truly excellent song only because the bridge between the second and final choruses is so powerful (writing a decent and sufficiently distinct bridge must be one of the tougher challenges in pop songwriting). "Nothing in My Way" also leaps from good to great because of the way the second chorus is followed by an intense closing coda not heard at any previous point in the song.
The thoroughness of the craftsmanship means that there are truly great moments in the songs that otherwise would rank behind the best ones: "A Bad Dream" is a fine song, but the blend of Chaplin's voice with the synthesizers in the bridge creates a surprising dollop of momentary magic. "Leaving So Soon" knows that its biggest punch comes with Chaplin's falsetto in the chorus, so that chorus is postponed a ways into the song to be more climactic.
I understand that Rice-Oxley does most of the writing for Keane. I also understand that the band nearly dissolved during the making of this record. What a tragedy it would be if that happened; Chaplin's voice needs Rice-Oxley's music, and vice versa. Each of the two has an indispensable collaborator that they should work to retain as long as they can.
I can't say this record is better than the first one, but I find it grabs me even more tightly; there are no throwaways on this record, at least not for me. I find it more intense start to finish than "Hopes and Fears" (which, by contrast, delivers 5 amazing songs up front but has a few weaker ones just before the end.)
Best of all, it's a body of work wonderfully distinct from their first album, and it nourishes hopes that more greatness may yet be to come.
Depth comes into play in songs like 'Nothing in my way," "Crystal Ball," and "The Frog Prince." Not just a collection of fun pop hooks backed by a great vocalist--Ok so Tom Chaplin is probably into the excellent category--these are songs with both style and themes that will make you think. The music aptly supports their melancholic feel and drive. Remarkably for 'Piano Rock' as some have classified them, Keane delivers music that it is possible to be active to (working out, dancing) at least part of the time. No, this isn't 'dance' album but it's not singer/songwriter fare either.
The refrain of "Nothing in my Way" sums this album up for me: "For a lonely soul you're having such a nice time." Keane is able to capture the melancholic complexities of the lonely soul and have a fun time doing it. Their music is layered, lovely, and even inspirational. Suitable for chilling out after work, for working, for inspiring creativity, this is music that will stick with you.
In a few words: Buy this album. You won't regret it.
5/5 Stars. An Essential album.