In general, I am the last person to jump on the bandwagon. When Keane released their debut album, Hopes and Fears, and it was heralded by critics and music fans everywhere as a reinvention of rock and roll, I was suspicious. Comparisons with Oasis’s former success, multiple platinum certifications and numerous accolades did not alleviate these suspicions, especially as my judgments were made on the basis of having heard only ‘Everybody’s Changing’ from the entire album.
2004 was an important year in music for me as my ten-year-old self began to drift away from the second-rate chart music that was on offer and started to fall in love with a different genre. There were a lot of quality albums released in 2004: O by Damien Rice, Hot Fuss by the Killers and Kasabian’s eponymous debut, to name but a few. But Keane’s unprecedentedly successful debut eluded me somehow.
Skipping forward a few years, I became mildly interested in Keane after seeing them on TV, and borrowed my sister’s copies of the first two albums. I put it on my iPod and used to lie in bed on Sunday mornings with my headphones in. Every summer after that, watching the sunlight cut through the gap between the curtains became like a ritual, thinking my thoughts and all the things I dreamed my life would be, as Hopes and Fears played in the background.
This album is incredibly special to me, as I think it embodies the essence of being young. Rice-Oxley’s lyrics are beautiful in their vague way, as they convey very intense emotion but simultaneously allow the listener to paint their own picture of events, and in this way the songs are eternally relevant and can be appreciated by anyone. The lyrical themes of confusion, romantic loss, heartbreak and adjustment to new situations, coupled with Tom Chaplin’s expressive vocals, create an album which it is impossible not to engage with.
The album opens with ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, a song which has marked its place in the hearts of many fans, and it’s not hard to see why. ‘Oh simple thing, where have you gone? I’m getting old and I need something to rely on’, is such a reflective line as the song contrasts the sadness of the end of a relationship with the narrator’s fear of being old and alone. ‘Sunshine’ explores the feeling of being lost in a disconnected world, while ‘This Is The Last Time’ describes the painful experience of being used by someone you love.
The crown jewel of the album, however, is ‘Bedshaped’. The soft verses are tinged with reminiscence and build to a soaring piano-powered chorus. As usual, a shroud of uncertainty hangs over the song and suggestions as to what the song is actually about range from death to illness to heartbreak. Tim Rice-Oxley wrote: ‘[The song] is about feeling that you’ve been “left behind” by an old friend or lover, and about hoping that you’ll be reunited one day so that you can live out the end of your lives together the way you started them’. For me, it remains one of the best songs I have ever heard, without exaggerating. It is songs such as these which make Hopes and Fears such an important album, and one which never gets old.