Keane's first album, Hopes and Fears, was thoroughly engaging, thanks in large part to Tom Chaplin's ethereal vocals, those Tim Rice-Oxley piano hooks, and the balladry of "Everybody's Changing," "Bend and Break," and "Somewhere Only We Know." It did big box office. Got a lot of press. U2 comparisons. Chris Martin analogies. "Timing is everything." "Coldplay Lite," said some. "Wait for the other shoe to drop," said others.
Under the Iron Sea is not as instantly catchy, though Keane is due credit for taking a bold step by infusing a darker sound into a set of tracks with moody electronica. The album has a few really good songs, most notably "Atlantic," "Nothing in My Way," "The Frog Prince," and the majestic title (sound)track. So let's split the difference: This effort is not the trumpeting that A Rush of Blood to the Head was, nor the mixed blessing X&Y was. But it never exactly slumps either, despite a move away from formulaic, radio-ready alt-pop hits. Not transcendent but worthwhile; this will grow on you.