Describing Night Train as a full album is more than a little ambitious – indeed, Keane could have a case to answer in terms of trade descriptions. Ostensibly an eight-track collection, the opener, -House Lights’, is one minute and 23 seconds of filler, while of the other seven, written and recorded during the Perfect Symmetry world tour, at least three give off the scent of b-sides.
-Back In Time’ is typical Keane fare: heavy on the mid-paced melodrama and quarter-life crisis, with soaring licks on the chorus, it’s Muse-lite by any other name. Similarly, -Clear Skies’ and -Your Love’ don’t see the Sussex outfit deviating too far from the blueprint that has served them well for three albums before this one: Tom Chaplin’s falsetto vocal wavering over inoffensive piano-driven background music.
Rapper K’Naan features on two tracks, which see Keane stepping out of their comfort zone, at least a little. -Looking Back’ has an early -90s feel, where the hip-hop elements are clunkily welded onto the original melody, while the catchy -Stop For A Minute’ is a summer radio anthem if ever we heard one; tinkered piano, woah-woah backing vocals and a chorus that could’ve come from -We Are The World’, with K’Naan’s vocal stylings tagged on at the end for some -urban’ credibility. It’s not near as bad as it sounds, however, and functions perfectly adequately as throwaway pop fare. In contrast, -Ishin Denshin (You’ve Got To Help Yourself)’, their collaboration with Tigarah, is a truly execrable crime against music: this is the kind of insipid, saccharine tunesmithery that even Elton John would baulk at using for a Disney soundtrack.
Album closer, -My Shadow’ is actually a truly fine song, building from ballad to rousing anthem, but by that stage, the damage has already been done. With a little more work, and a few more tunes, this could have been a half-decent album, but as it stands, Night Train has the distinct whiff of rush-job and stop-gap. Their fans deserve better.