Several years ago I wrestled with Keane’s catchy debut album and their reputation for being Dad Rock. Their second, Under the Iron Sea, was so good that I decided I didn’t really care what the critics thought about sad paternal rockers, I just loved it. Once I actually was a dad, and album number three came out, I actually went off them a bit, loving the teaser single for it but not the end result—so much so that I failed to purchase their third-and-a-halfth album, Night Train, and figured I was done with them.

But Amazon insisted that I should try their latest, Strangeland, at a bargain price on mp3; and I did.

It’s great. Easily the equal of their first two albums; possibly even as good as the second. It’s occasionally derivative (the opening track is the James anthem that never was), relentlessly tuneful, and consistently enjoyable. I’m flipping through the tracks now looking for highlights to mention, and they’re all highlights, although “Disconnected” and “The Starting Line” make good entry points. The album only tails off in the last few tracks, and that’s only because I’m listening to the deluxe version with four bonus tracks (still good, just not quite as strong as the dozen of the album proper). If you’ve ever liked any of their stuff, give it a try.

I liked it so much that I finally picked up the Night Train mini-album; which, apart from the track “Clear Skies”, isn’t doing a lot for me with its raps and retroisms. I’m not sure what’s prompted the return to their classic sound on Strangeland, but I’m all for it.

Amazon’s latest subtle hint was to pick up the new Garbage album, which out of loyalty to Late 1990s Me I did, even though I can’t remember when I last listened to their early 2000s stuff. Sure enough, Not Your Kind of People sounds like every other Garbage album, and reinforces how effectively they nailed their then-novel formula at the outset with “Vow”. Which is not to say that the new one is bad; it sounds like Garbage with a capital G, not a lowercase one, and a few tracks are immediately catchy. If some of them fell through a wormhole they could even end up as hits in the late 1990s. (Or earlier; Shirley Manson is sounding uncannily like Chrissie Hynde these days.)

It’s odd to feel happier with Keane’s wild inconsistency over their five(ish) albums than Garbage’s consistency across their five. I guess it’s the musical equivalent of a narrative arc versus a latest instalment.

17 May 2012 · Music