Dana Moss lends an ear to Tom Chaplin’s first foray into solo material.
Keane are one of the most quintessential mid noughties bands: they have the soft, crooning vocals; the unadventurous bass line; they played on the radio every time you got into your mum’s car. But half of their appeal has always been Tom Chaplin’s voice, and it’s never been better demonstrated that in his first foray into solo music.
Chaplin was not Keane’s lyricist, and The Wave is just as much a test of his poetic ability as it is his ability to carry an entire album by himself. Whilst he succeeds effortlessly at both of these things, his lyrics are by far the stand-out revelation of the album. A lot of lead singers branching out on their own have fallen into the pitfall of being unable to write a decent song by themselves, but this isn’t something Chaplin needs to worry about – there are certain moments on The Wave where he creates beautiful poetry, and the lyrics accompanied by his eternally young-looking face and his smooth voice are a perfect match.
Take the opening track for example. ‘Still Waiting’ sets the tone for the rest of the album: Chaplin’s voice is exposed on the verses, accompanied by only a piano and introduced with some slow, rising strings, but that’s all he really needs to create a catchy song. It’s easy to imagine ‘Still Waiting’ in both a nationwide tour and an intimate, one-off show – there is a raw honesty in the lyrics that is balanced with the soaring, anthemic choruses.
The album, as a whole, charts a movement from rock-bottom to redemption: each song is a declaration of survival in a different way, and Chaplin clearly has fun experimenting with (admittedly, not that adventurously) different styles throughout The Wave. ‘Worthless Words’ is the clearest showcase of Chaplin’s voice, a mournful ballad which manages to create pathos without sliding into maudlin self-pity. And the penultimate track on the album, ‘See It So Clear’, has Chaplin’s soaring voice accompanied by a chanting chorus: a classic feel good way to lead into the final song, but one that works peculiarly well when considering the hopeful ending of the album as a whole.
There are a couple of songs that don’t quite hit as hard. ‘The River’ is slightly too synthesised in comparison to both the gritty lyrics and the sleek, understated production of the rest of the songs, and ‘Solid Gold’ doesn’t have enough movement to work outside the album. But these slight lapses don’t deflect from the real excellence of the rest of the track list. ‘Bring The Rain’ is my personal favourite – it grows in intensity and drama throughout the course of the song in a nice contrast to the mazy solemnity of other tracks, and swells into a firmly hopeful end. It is the most confident end of any of the songs in The Wave, a clear proclamation of Chaplin’s independence.
The Wave retains a lot of Keane’s charm but the album as a whole is a lot more melancholy than anything Keane ever produced – far from the slightly mournful nostalgia of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, the entirety of The Wave is troubled and wistful, and that is exactly the sort of music I love to listen to. Even the album cover, which portrays Chaplin half-submerged in some – wait for it – waves, captures the subtle yearning that runs through the entire album.
The final song on the album, ‘The Wave’, describes Chaplin as heading back to the shore: in ‘scattered pieces’ but heading home nonetheless. It’s an uplifting end to what is an emotive and brutally honest discussion of Chaplin’s personal struggles, and a satisfying end to what has been a surprising hit.
Featured Image: Wikipedia