Album Review: The Best Of Keane: Disc Two

This, the second disc of Keane’s Best Of compilation, is a collection of b-sides for the band’s singles over the year. Although this tradition is unusual in the United States, musicians and bands tend to release additional songs on physical singles in some markets (like the United Kingdom), and while some bands choose to release additional album tracks, other bands choose to write and release original songs. Keane, like bands like Oasis, appears to be in the category of bands who release their own compositions, along with some live songs and alternate takes of album tracks, as their b-sides, and include all of them to make this album more desirable for fans who wish to have a complete set of songs from the band’s first decade of work. Here is a track-by-track review:

Snowed Under – This song, which would have fit in particularly well in Keane’s “Hopes And Fears” album [1], reflects on the loss of a friendship that the narrator expected to endure through time, where instead of a friendship bringing one up it ends up making one feel snowed under on a lovely day. Who hasn’t been there before, often?

Walnut Tree – Another song that clearly matches the mood of the Hopes and Fears album [1], and would have fit snugly on the b-side of that album, this b-side with its synthesized strings and slow pace talks about waiting next to a walnut tree a long, long time for someone to come, and feeling as if the wait is fruitless (pun intended).

Fly To Me – This beautiful song with somewhat sparse instrumentation reflects on a common concern for Keane, and others in general, the desire to be with others, reflecting a desire for a friendship to endure through life through the good times and bad times, a desire that appears particularly often and particularly poignantly in Keane’s work.

To The End Of The Earth – This song reflects a desire to run to the end of the earth to try to escape from one’s insoluble problems with family and other people. It’s a gorgeous but melancholy piano ballad about the desire to run away, very far away, from one’s problems, with the melancholy coming from the undercurrent that such a solution is ultimately futile because one can never run far enough away to escape from one’s trouble.

The Way You Want It – This song continues the previous songs’ concerns with friendship and a desire to find in relationships an escape from problems and a shelter from the rain. Of course, this being a Keane song, it reflects long on the fact that in life there are many occasions where nothing goes the way you want it to, so there is melancholy at the base of this tune.

Something In Me Was Dying – This lovely piano ballad speaks eloquently about the broken and dying nature of the narrator, wishing for others to think of him fondly despite the strong feeling of a need to escape, despite knowing that there is little chance to make it back home [2] and feeling sad that the friendship and love that he had known from someone seems to have vanished.

Allemande – This piano ballad is yet another post-estrangement ode to someone who has departed whom the narrator feels he has barely known, full of apologies and questioning, but not particularly full of satisfactory answers for what happened and why.

Let It Slide – This dancepop synth number with distorted vocals would have fit in nicely in the band’s “Perfect Symmetry” album [3], with its use of an upbeat and peppy musical track to attempt to disguise the melancholy of a resigned acceptance to the end of love and friendship and its inevitable occurrence in light of the narrator’s frequent experiences with such matters.

He Used To Be A Lovely Boy – This intensely sad and gloomy piano ballad looks at the grim state of someone whom no one will remember fondly, presumably the narrator talking to himself in the second person, reflecting on what happened in life with the accumulated burden of frustrated hopes and unsatisfactory dreams, brooding once again on having too much time, and no adventures left to complete, with a desire to find a hiding place from love. How sad that one would want to hide from love.

Thin Air – In a nice contrast from the general mood of the previous tracks, which are backwards looking and gloomy, reflecting songs, this is piano ballad that reflects on the beginning of a relationship, and the expectation of intimacy and friendship is frustrated by a lack of communication and the fact that the intended beloved turns into air. What the narrator wants–someone as they are, honest and open–is frustrated by repeated patterns of failure.

The Iron Sea (Magic Shop Version) – This remix of the instrumental track from the “Under The Iron Sea” album [4] adds a little bit of elaboration, notably on the treble end and rhythm, to the track, although in this case I believe that less is more.

Maybe I Can Change – Blending seamlessly into the previous track, this lounge appropriate piano-backed track shows the narrator seeking to head off an impending rupture with the unconvincing line “maybe I can change this time,” which would seem to indicate there are dysfunctional patterns of behavior that are at the base of the narrator’s difficulties, repeated failures to respect boundaries or meet expectations.

Time To Go – This track has an acoustic guitar sound, with its common desire to escape, in this case a narrator who appears to have had a bad time at the bar, drinking a bit too much alcohol despite the fact that it is two hours until closing time and home is a long way away. The instrumentation is a bit different than the usual Keane song, but the concerns are the same, stylistic variety with thematic unity.

Staring At The Ceiling – This sounds like the sort of track that could have been added to “Night Train” [5] to turn that double EP into an actual LP. The song has a bit of a driving rock beat, in contrast to the languid tone of most of the band’s piano ballad b-sides, but the concern is a common one–looking forward to the beginning of a friendship/relationship with a sense of dread about the course it is likely to take in light of history. The drumwork, including some bongo drums, is excellent throughout, but one wishes that Keane had a bit more lightness.

Myth – This piano ballad sounds like something that would have fit it on “Strangeland,” with its its desire to return to the past despite the knowledge that one is turning old and one is no longer the wide-eyed kid that one once was. It is a desire to return to peace of mind and innocence (if one ever knew those things), with the fact that one is reminded of the people one knew in the past in sweet children, a sort of gentle mocking of the promises of growth.

Difficult Child – This song is another negative nostalgic look back in time at a difficult child who suffered terribly through the night. This is something that many people could relate to. As might be expected, it combines lovely instrumentation with sad lyrics about waiting and torment. One cannot help but feel a sense of strong empathy that Keane felt such a compelling need to over and over again pour over their lives in the search for a better future.

Sea Fog (Live From Mexico City, 2012) – This song is a live version of a song from the band’s “Strangeland” album, a gentle piano ballad about dealing with confusion and a lack of bearings, and the audience clapping and cheering adds a nice touch and demonstrates the band’s live chops. Too bad they never come to the city where I live, so that I could actually hear them live.

Russian Farmer’s Song – This story song has a lovely minor key melody, peppy instrumentation, and it represents a fitting closing to album, in its reflection on some of the most downtrodden people in all human history, Russian farmers. This song seems entirely too uplifting for its subject matter, which is probably one of the only times that could be said of this band, since a genuine song about Russian farmers would have to include the burden of taxes for khans and czars, the degradation of serfdom, and the horrors of collectivization and starvation during the Stalin years.

This is an excellent collection of b-sides that match well with the band’s selection of singles and album tracks from the first disc of this compilation [6]. The b-sides show consistency in theme, mostly being songs about friendship or love lost, reflective tunes looking back at the past with sadness and longing. There is some variety of instrumentation towards the end of the album, as the first few numbers are largely piano ballads. Any of these songs would have fit in alongside their album songs, and this collection even manages to show the live prowess of the band, showing that their music translates well from studio to stage. Even so, the lack of hope and optimism suggests this will not be an album I listen to often, as I don’t feel it necessary to encourage my more gloomy moods very often.


[2] See, for example, the song “Simple Machine” from the following album:





About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Album Review: The Best Of Keane: Disc Two

  1. Pingback: Do They Really Think Californians Are That Clueless? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Album Review: Irontom Compilation | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Album Review: Greatest Hits Of The Flute | Edge Induced Cohesion

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