Song of the Day #597: ‘Better Than This’ – Keane

I have a small pile of CDs from the past year or so that I’ve never gotten around to reviewing. I even have draft posts sitting in the admin of the blog ready to go, but they’re sitting empty. I find it difficult to review albums, especially when I don’t feel strongly one way or the other and the artists aren’t in my stable of favorites. How many ways can you say “this is a pretty good album by a pretty good band?”

So I’m finally accepting that I’m never going to give these albums proper reviews but rather than ignore them entirely I’m going to pick a song from each to highlight the rest of this week as Songs of the Day.

First up is Keane’s Perfect Symmetry, the third album from the Scottish trio. The band’s first two efforts, Hopes and Fears and Under the Iron Sea, were stately, emotional affairs. Perfect Symmetry is something else entirely. It leans heavily on 80s-style pop, utilizing synths and high-gloss production.

It’s an odd direction for the band and I can’t say it’s one I welcomed. I feel like they’d managed to hit a pretty solid groove with the earnest tunes they cranked out from their piano/bass/drums lineup on the first two albums. That said, the songcraft remains intact on Perfect Symmetry and, as musical detours go, it’s largely successful. I’d rather this not be the band’s new normal, but as an experiment it works.

‘Better Than This’ is typical of the sound on Perfect Symmetry, complete with it’s hand claps and “oh whoa oh” backing vocals (which remind me of Glass Houses Billy Joel for some reason). I’ve read a lot of people comparing this song to David Bowie, but I don’t know Bowie well enough to pick that out.

At any rate, it sounds like the band had a lot of fun recording it, and I have a lot of fun listening to it.

Is this what you meant?
Is this what you dreamed of?
When you were making your plans
Shaking the dirt off?

Do you feel like you and I belong?
Just keep your eyes on the road
And nothing can go wrong

You can do so much better than this
You can do so much better than this

I’ve been checking my sums
Oh where did the time go?
Holding my photograph up to the window

Through the paper and refracted sun
I can see all the things I wish that I’d done

You can hang your hopes on the medicine
You can put your faith in the phone in
You can tell yourself you’re doing your best
You can do so much better than this

Get a grip on yourself
Get a grip on yourself
Could’ve been something, but you’re too late
And you weren’t invited anyway

Cos the photograph showed the wrong man
Cos there is no soap star holding your hand
You don’t see yourself in the freeze frame
Must be someone else using your name

And everyone will be the same
And everyone will gloat
And everywhere you’ll see your name
In every shop window

It’s better than this
You can do so much better than this
You can do so much better than this
You can do so much better than this

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #597: ‘Better Than This’ – Keane

  1. Dana says:

    I caught the Bowie inspiration right away. It’s the instrumentation in the verse. Compare:

  2. Clay says:

    Wow, great catch. I need to get better acquainted with Bowie.

  3. Amy says:

    I can see why someone would think Bowie when hearing the Keane song, but never in a million years would I have pulled up “Ashes to Ashes” as the song that featured the particular influence. Sheesh; that’s impressive.

    I don’t know Keane well enough to know this as a departure, but I agree that it (like most 80’s pop) is the kind of thing I might be in the mood for once in a great while, but I’d rather hear the “earnest tunes” that are their stock and trade.

  4. Dana says:

    You had to be a nerd like my watching MTV in the 80’s to so quickly identify the sound as coming from “Ashes to Ashes,”:)

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