One of Keane’s most endearing qualities is their simple manner. When you put on the band’s material, you know what to expect: emotive pianos, straightforward verses, and Tom Chaplin’s soaring voice. A title like “Somewhere Only We Know” hardly sounds flowy or even all that intimate, but by taking out mystery or metaphor, the message resonates with more intensity. Even when searching for answers on a song such as “Crystal Ball,” they keep the symbolism relatively general. “Mirror, mirror on the wall” says just enough for a listener to catch their drift.

Keane’s latest effort, Cause and Effect, continues their thread of moving, accessible modern rock, the name itself just as forthright as anything else in their catalog.

The album encapsulates almost everything listeners come to expect in contemporary pop rock of the 21st century. Lead Chaplin, who still boasts an impressive vocal range and resonance, most often resembles Brandon Flowers (see “The Way I Feel”), though Chaplin’s a bit steadier in terms of tone. At lower registers, he pivots towards Chris Martin: the way he sings “Put the radio on/ Put the radio on” essentially dead rings as Martin. On the pop side of things, “Love Too Much” romps along with the same cheerful fun of something like Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.”

Like any thoughtful rock record designed with taste in mind, Cause and Effect takes advantage of the piano’s expressive, melodic range. It sets the stage during the intros to both “You’re Not Home” and “Love Too Much,” allowing each to grow larger from this elemental instrument. When enhanced with a bit of echo and lo-fi strings, it transports Chaplin back into his memories on “Strange Room.” “A pint set on the piano” refers back to the millions of pianos that have littered Keane songs for the past decade and a half.

Because it adheres to the band’s winning formula, Cause and Effect likewise struggles to differentiate itself from that decade and a half of Keane, or from any of the acts it resembles. The aforementioned Brandon Flowers comparison really speaks to the band’s stadium-sized anthems, which at times sound too simple to enjoy.

“Love Too Much,” for example, brandishes clichés like the captions of a mid-level Instagram influencer. “And we make mistakes/ And they make us what we are” certainly says something, but you expect a band of their age and experience to say something a little deeper.
And yet, Cause and Effect still features enough pleasantries and melodies to keep you tuned in for a full spin. “I’m Still Here,” dedicated to multi-instrumentalist Tim Rice-Oxley’s children, carries the wistful wonder that makes their music so appealing in the first place, though I will say some of the phrasing might make you cock your head to the side.

Part of crafting successful pop involves embracing the universal, the commonplace, the usual, and Keane do so without any fuss or tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. At a time where memes and jokes constitute the most popular music on the charts, it’s a nice reminder when musicians just try their hand at a classic sound.

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