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Review: Variety

By Steven Mirkin

June 6, 2004

Optimism gets top billing on Keane's debut album "Hopes and Fears" (Interscope). The British trio's best songs feature surging, majestic choruses that raise you up like high tide, while the lyrics provide an undertow of melancholy, mourning losses and yearning for simpler times. It's a cocktail that's proved commercially intoxicating, as Keane has become of the most unlikely success stories in English music this year: a modest, guitarless trio specializing in mild, piano-based mid-tempo pop that's topped the U.K. charts. Given the spirited response to their first headlining show in L.A. Friday -- a sold out Troubadour crowd singing along even with b-sides available only on small independent import releases -- they seem poised to repeat their achievement Stateside.

If their 45-minute perf made Keane's appeal clear -- it's tough not to be pulled in by the radio-friendly embrace of "Bend and Break" and "This Is the Last Time" -- it also pointed up their weaknesses. Except for the single "Somewhere Only We Know," they have yet to craft a convincing ballad, and too many of the songs cover similar emotional and melodic terrain.

Singer Tom Chaplin has an extraordinary, creamy tenor that can put even the blandest material over, but after a while, the effect is like overindulging in white chocolate.

The most obvious reference point is Jeff Buckley, although Chaplin lacks the brooding restlessness that made Buckley so compelling, while shades of Queen's Freddie Mercury and the Zombies' Colin Blunstone can also be heard. He cuts a disarming figure onstage with his baby faced demeanor and guileless dancing, and he seemed genuinely abashed by the aud's enthusiasm.

There's a summery freshness to Keane right now. Its moderate sound is something of a palliative in this partisan time; whether music this monochromatic will retain its appeal is anyone's guess.

Minibar took the stage immediately before Keane, and the L.A.-by-way-of-Britain quartet packed more of a kick than in the past. With Simon Petty adding his arch vocals and Tim Walker's plangent guitar solos, songs such as the rangy "Somebody Down Here Loves You" (from last year's "Fly Below the Radar" on Foodchain Records) sound like Robyn Hitchcock transplanted to Laurel Canyon.

Keane plays New York's Knitting Factory June 24.

From Variety
Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information

Last updated: Oct 01, 2006 - 04:15 PM PDT

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By Phil Gallo

April 23, 2001
Mint; 300 capacity; $8

Brit bands almost always have an easier time than Yanks of grasping the intricacies of the Laurel Canyon sound that ushered in a new era of folk rock in the late 1960s. American acceptance has been well-earned by Minibar, which has found kindred spirits in Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown (recording one of his songs), Wilco and the Jayhawks (opening shows) and T-Bone Burnett (producer of band's Universal debut Road Movies). This is one of those rootsy acts that understands how to layer pop elements -- particularly three- and four-part harmonies -- and deliver them in an oh-so-mellow, soothing fashion.

Minibar's showcase gig at the Mint lacked some of the sharpness of the disc, a summery and enjoyable debut that brims with deft compositions and the steady hand of Burnett. The title track, a delightful midtempo ode to California, came off strongest in the hourlong set, as they hit the harmonies with the wistful innocence of a wandering visitor to the Golden State. That sunshine-and-freeways vision has a melting quality when it comes from a foreigner; they've so perfected it that it's absolutely jarring when leader Simon Petty spoke with British accent rather than a twang from the Valley.

As they charged through their rougher material, Minibar displayed leanings that, while decidedly British, defy the state of Britpop. Geffen had a similar act, albeit American, a few years back called Big Blue Hearts. Minibar isn't as slick as that act just yet, but they beam with a similar sincerity as the Hearts, and that may just be the band's ticket to something more.

From Variety
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information