Keane are a British band that have been beloved since their 2004 debut album Hopes and Fears for their ability to articulate difficult emotions. In 2016, frontman Tom Chaplin released his critically acclaimed solo album The Wave which explored his struggles with drug addiction and sense of self in spite of the band’s immense success. These days, conversations about mental health, particularly among men, are at the forefront of our culture. Keane’s fifth studio album, Cause and Effect, sees the band’s Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter and pianist Tim Rice-Oxley exploring depression and the breakdown of his marriage with blistering candour.
Cause and Effect is an album that is characterised by the startling honesty of its lyrics, with Stupid Things among the most direct: ‘Can’t make it home, I’m working late/You know I hate to miss the kids’ bedtime again’. The song marks a shift to lyrics of a more conversational nature than previous Keane albums. You’re Not Home laments the absence of Rice-Oxley’s daughters from the family home, channelling the dreamy, restless electronica of Björk before bursting into a sublimely epic rush of emotion.
One of the album’s greatest achievements is its ability to convey a loss of control. Richard Hughes’ drumming on lead single The Way I Feel drives its sense of disorientation while its lyrics try to make sense of unsettling thoughts. Put The Radio On describes succumbing to desire with no thought for the consequences: ‘Shut all the blinds, hang a sign on the door/We can’t stop this anymore’. The song builds to a stunning haze of foreboding synths with Chaplin singing eerily over backing vocals.
The deep seam of grief running through the album is encapsulated by Thread, a fragile yet heartfelt plea to not end the marriage with bitterness: ‘Forgive me, remember that I’m a good man, just not good enough’. I Need Your Love is similarly lacerating in its sadness: ‘Be my direction, throw myself at your feet/Give me something in return for what you’ve done to me’. The song is made all the more powerful by the sense that the speaker already knows that their pleas are futile.
Love Too Much offers a lighter moment, an upbeat song about the intensity of giving everything to a relationship. Chase The Night Away articulates the feeling of vulnerability at the start of a new relationship while still recovering from the end of the previous one, imploring a new lover to ‘Show me how to love again’. I’m Not Leaving is a tender promise to Rice-Oxley’s daughters that he will always be there, while Phases is a soaring acceptance of the impermanence of life.
Part of Cause and Effect’s emotional power lies in Rice-Oxley’s knowledge of when to hold back. Strange Room is a sparse, mournful piano-led song about a drink-driving incident in 2014: ‘I know what it looks like/A rich kid with a good life’. The song’s hushed melancholy only amplifies the sadness of the refrain ‘Finally I’ve come home’.
Chaplin has never sounded better, while the band (also bassist Jesse Quin) have created possibly their most cohesive album to date. Cause and Effect (produced by the band and David Kosten) chronicles Rice-Oxley coming to terms with his new reality while accepting the transient nature of life. The result is genuinely affecting and often exhilarating, while marking Rice-Oxley’s growing maturity as a person as well as a songwriter.
Cause and Effect is released on Island Records on 20th September 2019.