The hardest part about disliking Keane, which I do, is drumming up the passion to do so. Normally vitriol toward a band comes easy for me, as expressing it is what I get paid to do. But Keane is a rare exception, a band that is so utterly plain and predictable, with each note more simple and telegraphed than the last, that it takes actual work to feel anything about them. In fact, the general reaction to Keane is neither liking nor disliking them. Instead most listeners just feel a casual "eh" toward the band.
The Bill Pullman (you know him, you don't like him, yet you really don't hate him either) of bland alt-rock, Keane is known the world over (their last album sold five million-plus copies), but not necessarily cared about anywhere. Having an opinion about them takes more work than the casual listener dares to muster. When their pouty piano jams come on the radio—a common occurrence, as their noncommittal sound crosses over to numerous radio formats—you don't turn the stereo up, or even off. Instead you are just resigned to let the song play out. The mere act of reaching toward the receiver and making an actual decision is just too much to deal with. So, instead, Keane wins by not losing.
When you think about it, Keane's fans don't really even like Keane. They are just a convenient musical stopgap, a band that fills the lengthy void between Coldplay tours, or while waiting for another good Travis record. It's hard to think of another band that brings about such lack of emotion on either side of the fence, but as Keane pens more music for suburban soccer moms—who listen in the Astro Van while taking the kids shopping at Gymboree—it's clear that they are just the tip of the insipid iceberg. It's a sad import from the UK, a music scene whose blinding hype used to match the creative output of the popular music they exported. But in fact, even more mainstream acts like Robbie Williams beat Keane out in terms of edge and panache, a band that seems to have been created in a hermetically sealed lab, suited perfectly for bland and indifferent musical tastes. While it's frustrating to witness the popularity of Keane, it's also difficult for me to really give a fuck. Each keystroke devoted to them is a forced and unnatural motion aimed at a band I'd much rather sleep through and never think of again.
Keane perform at the Roseland on Monday January 29th.