There's no doubt that the trio of Keane are being pimped as one of the next big things in British rock. With Chris Martin taking a hiatus to have a baby with Ms. Paltrow, everyone and their brother is going to be doing their best to be annointed heir apparent of the soaring rock anthem in the UK. On their debut album, Keane definitely takes swings for the fences over and over, and while they don't strike out, Hopes And Dreams could maybe be called a bloop single (sorry for the baseball lingo).
One of the most obvious things about the group is that instead of being guitar driven, they're piano and keyboard driven. It's not an inherently bad thing, but there's something about piano and keyboards that lend themselves to sounding even more glossy and spit-shined when produced in a certain way. Along with the radio-friendly vocals of Tom Chaplin, it's the ivories of Tim Rice-Oxley that are the driving force behind the band and with the high-gloss production it makes the group sound like they're trying to be the heir to the Billy Joel throne.
And really, other than several drunken driving (and crash) incidents, I suppose there's nothing wrong with that (the guy even went from Christie Brinkley to several females less than half his age). If you're a listener looking for highly-polished radio singles (the album is literally full of them), this will be your thing. The problem, of course, is that the 11 tracks on Hopes And Fears have an almost complete lack of soul and even distinction between one another. Other than a few standouts (including the opener of "Somewhere Only We Know"), the album just sort of blurs together into huge swells of calculated crescendos and overwrought vocals. Heck, I'm not even a huge fan of Coldplay, but I think they'll still have a pretty good handle on things once they decide to pick things up again.