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‘Perfect Symmetry’: Keane’s Adventurous Third Album

Taking risks with new sounds and styles resulted in a chart-topping record which also thrilled critics.

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Cover: Courtesy of Interscope Records

Arguably Keane’s boldest artistic statement to date, 2008’s Perfect Symmetry captured the British trio stepping out of its comfort zone and trying out new sounds and styles. While the album resulted in creative and commercial success, the band’s collective desire to embrace change was initially driven by necessity.

“Even the title of [our preceding album] Under The Iron Sea suggested all was not well with the band,” vocalist Tom Chaplin told the Irish Independent at the time of Perfect Symmetry’s release. “It was written on a tour bus and it has that sense of claustrophobia – of a band sick of each other, sick of the sight of the road and sick of the world around them. It was a dark place and a dark time.”

Listen to Keane’s Perfect Symmetry now.

It’s been well documented how Keane’s early success also took a personal toll on Chaplin, who submitted to a spell in rehab following the tour supporting Under The Iron Sea. However, his enforced layoff gave Keane a much-needed opportunity to recharge batteries and plot a new course for the future. This involved Tim Rice-Oxley adding some vintage 80s synths to his arsenal and adding new textures to the songs for Perfect Symmetry which the band recorded at Teldex Studios in Berlin.

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Elaborating further in the Irish Independent, Chaplin said “We were inspired by people who had made the big departures…. U2 and David Bowie [in Berlin] come to mind. They went there and felt a sense of liberation and the opportunity to do something that really was different. That’s something we felt too. We wanted to throw the rule book out of the window. To me, it’s a record that feels profound and exciting.”

Certainly, the best of the Perfect Symmetry songs showcased Keane sounding re-energized – and also capable of throwing a few curves. After all, while the album included quintessential slow-burning anthems such as “Again And Again,” “Love Is The End,” and the graceful titular song, it also saw Tom Chaplin and company pulling off the brassy, 80s disco-style fanfares of “Spiralling,” the Bowie-esque bump and grind of “Better Than This” and even the funk-imbued, guitar-enhanced “Pretend That You’re Alone.”

Keane - Spiralling (Official Music Video)

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Convinced they’d made their most adventurous – yet also cohesive – album to date, Keane felt gratified when fans and critics alike wholeheartedly agreed. When Perfect Symmetry was released in October 2008, it topped the UK charts and made the Top 10 of the US Billboard 200. The Guardian praised songwriter Rice-Oxley’s “ear for a razor-sharp pop tune” and Billboard declared that “Perfect Symmetry bursts out of the gate with a suite of giddy, 80s-inflected Brit pop songs that, surprisingly, suit the band well.” Indeed, the warmth of the reception caught Keane completely off guard.

“We just thought we would make music that pleased us, rather than trying to second-guess what people wanted to hear,” Tom Chaplin said in 2008. “And you know what? By pleasing ourselves, we’ve managed to please lots of other people as well.”

Listen to Keane’s Perfect Symmetry now.

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