You’ve gotta give it to Keane -- the guys aren’t afraid to reinvent themselves, even if it means decreased record sales. After being typecast as ballad-loving, tender-hearted crooners with their 2004 debut, they spent the following four years dismantling the myth that they were the next Coldplay. Released in 2006, Under the Iron Sea found them skewering Tony Blair’s politics and disguising Tim Rice-Oxley’s keyboard with guitar pedals, while 2008’s Perfect Symmetry highlighted their goofy side, not to mention a love for cheesy ‘80s pop. Night Train takes most of its cues from that last album, but it also ventures into newer territory, featuring an ambient instrumental opening track as well as contributions from two R&B musicians (Somali hip-hop artist K’Naan and Japanese singer Tigarah). K’Naan’s presence isn’t limited to a mere cameo; he appears on two songs and actively steers both, turning “Looking Back” into a pop/funk/soft rock hybrid and bringing a sense Timberlake-ish digital pop to “Stop for a Minute.” When left to their own devices, Keane continue exploring the sounds that Perfect Symmetry introduced, often paying as much attention to the songs’ production as the actual tunes themselves. It’s all very eclectic and a bit unexpected -- two qualities that seem to be Keane’s modus operandi as of late -- but what’s missing is a pop anthem along the lines of “Again and Again” or “Bend and Break,” both of which allowed Tom Chaplin to flex his vocal chops on past albums.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey