A while ago I heard the song “Somewhere Only We Know” and became instantly intrigued by a band named Keane. Only one other person I knew had ever heard of them and he told me that I should buy their last CD. So after searching many music stores and websites, I came to the sad, sad conclusion that this release was not available in the States. After weeks of looking in various import sections of record stores and still not being able to find it, I decided that it was hopeless and stopped my search. And so I lost faith in my local record shops and tried to forget about the band and CD that I had devoted many hours of my life trying to find. Months past and I had forgotten Keane and “Somewhere Only We Know” but then, like a daisy popping out of the snow, I saw it: Keane – Hopes and Fears up for review. I was replying faster than you could scream “Looks like another Coldplay sound-a-like band.”
The first track, “Somewhere Only We Know,” is the song that caused me to spend countless hours looking for a CD that had not even seen release yet. It is a simple piano driven song that showcases the band’s understated and soft melodic music. Tom Chaplin’s voice is released with a quiet desperation which suits the song’s longing lyrics. “Oh simple thing where have you gone? / I’m getting old and I need something to rely on” is sung in such an earnest way that it feels as if the lyrics are a part of you, and not just some band’s words. Despite the beautiful lyrics and vocals the center of this song is comprised of the gorgeous keyboard melody produced by Tim Rice-Oxley. The richness of the melody provides the perfect backdrop to this longing tale of desire for stability and love.
“Everybody’s Changing,” the album’s fifth track, left me struck with this odd comparison that I couldn’t get out of my mind. Every time Chaplin’s voice began to sing the chorus, for some reason Elton John came to mind. The bouncy piano and Chaplin’s slight falsetto swinging wildly into a contrasting low just reminded me of Elton’s ranging vocals. The music backing my wild obsession with the above comparison is light, bouncy, and filled with little flourishes of the keyboard which is a complete turnaround from the uncertainty in the lyrics. The next track, “Your Eyes Open,” begins with an eerie keyboard melody and Richard Hughes’ consistently magnificent drums. The underlying darkness of the track remains evident despite Chaplin’s uplifting voice.
An average listener would describe Hopes and Fears as part slower-Radiohead and part piano-driven Coldplay; but after a few listens one can begin to notice the small intricacies that make Keane’s music similar to those other UK bands but completely remarkable on its own.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.