Album Reviews

Keith – Vice And Virtue

(Lucky Number) UK release date: 2 February 2009

Keith - Vice And Virtue On the face of it, ‘Keith‘ seems a pretty odd name for a band. Why share your name with thousands of people and a district in Scotland when you could be carving out an individual identity for yourself? But there is another side to the equation. Anyone named Keith is bound to want to hear you, and even if you’re not blessed with that name it makes you think of those that are – in this case a champion swimmer, a far-flung Uncle or an ex-Marine.

Like the name, the band have a pretty mainstream appeal too, with their easy-on-the ear melodies and tales of everyday emotions. Yet with the songs, and their occasional settings of English pastoral scenes, there’s something pleasingly left of the field about them, a willingness to take on far flung influences that suits them well.

The songs of mainstream appeal are headed by recent single Lullaby, breezing in on the back of a carefree piano line and leading up its chorus of escapism, where Oli Bayston sings “we will try to forget what’s going on over there”.

This helps to give a hint of the band’s softer underbelly. While songs such as You Don’t Know are a call to arms, albeit with a touch of insecurity, Don’t Want To Be Apart finds the Warrington quartet in wistful mood in a heart on sleeve ballad. Even here they refuse to go the way of pop routine, thanks in part to producer Dan Carey, who has previous with Franz Ferdinand and Hot Chip. It’s to be assumed he’s responsible for the nice brushes of electronica around the edges of this song and others.

Elsewhere the band flirt with Eastern promise for Up In The Clouds, which also has a nice bit of white noise psychedelia to its cymbal sounds and more of a driving rhythm, while Bayston suddenly comes down for a more ruminative approach on You Don’t Know, proclaiming all matter of fact that “today I love you and it’s a quarter to 10”. Lucid even makes an excursion into dub, and it’s to the band’s immense credit that they emerge from this with credibility intact.

Yet none of this prepares the listener fully for the powerful title track, 10 minutes of music that says much more in notes than it does in words, gathering power slowly until an intense and impressive coda, a sign that Keith have plenty left in the tank.

Vice And Virtue, then, is an impressive statement of intent, enough to mark Bayston and co. out from the more stale examples of Indie-dom emanating from the North West. Their ability to speak in more than one language should find them many new friends – another Keith to add to the list.

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