Universal Island Records - 2004 - 50 minutes

It may or may not be calculated, but Keane's decision to release their debut album when Coldplay are on a break is a very wise move indeed. Put side by side with the latter's 'Parachutes' or 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head', 'Hopes and Fears' is cruelly exposed as a solid but unquestionably second-rate effort.

But with Chris Martin playing happy families with Gwyneth Paltrow, there is a gap that needs to be filled. Keane can't manage that, but let's give them their dues. If you spare 'Hopes and Fears' - as in don't overplay it - it holds up well. Singles 'Somewhere Only We Know' and 'Everybody's Changing' are fine pop songs, and can withstand an enormous amount of spinning. The absence of a guitarist is also well offset (thanks mainly to inventive piano playing by Tim Rice-Oxley) on 'Bend and Break' and 'This Is The Last Time'.

Elsewhere though, the Sussex three-piece fares a lot worse. On repeated listening, the polished veneer cracks all over the place. 'Can't Stop Now' is the worst of the lot, inspiring memories of 80s rejects Johnny Hates Jazz. The production doesn't help, rendering things too crisp to irk, and too soulless to move.

The best that can be said for 'Hopes and Fears' is that it marks Keane out as a singles band. The gems here are all over the airways, what's left is too toothless and anodyne to matter.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Somewhere Only We Know - Bend and Break - We Might As Well Be Strangers - Everybody's Changing - Your Eyes Open - She Has No Time - Can't Stop Now - Sunshine - This Is The Last Time - On A Day Like Today - Untitled I - Bedshaped