Tom Chaplin - The Wave (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
TOM Chaplin might claim he’s taken a bold step by recording his first solo collection of songs outside of Keane but, in truth, the risk-taking is kept to a minimum.
Despite teaming up with Matt Hales (Aqualung, Lianne La Havas), the spirit of Keane looms large over many of the songs on the record. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the quality of that band’s work, it does carry a sense of familiarity that Chaplin himself may be disappointed to hear.
Opening track Still Waiting is particularly Keane-like. There’s an orchestral flourish, albeit fleeting, to open it up, before a familiar piano sound accompanies Chaplin’s distinct vocals. The slow-build nature of the song is also very Keane-like. And yet the song does soar. The chorus is great. And the lyrics typically emotive, featuring lines like “buried in the rubble, there’s a boy in trouble, reaching for a piece of the sky, clawing at the wreckage, sending out a message, dying to get back to the light”.
Chaplin knows how to put together a sharp melody and it’s blissfully evident here, making Still Waiting a great place to start proceedings.
Hardened Heart follows up in similarly impressive fashion. Again, it’s a slow-build to epic kind of thing. But it’s made all the more striking for the way in which, lyrically, it deals with some of the demons that Chaplin has lived through with an endearing clarity and honesty. It’s a disarming insight into his turmoil, wrapped in a toe-tapping song.
If there’s a further comparison to be made, then the emotional scope of the album and its layering is also akin to the kind of thing James have been doing so well for so long.
Admittedly, there are some curious choices thrown in: some of them successful, others less so. Of the former, Worthless Words is another confessional that resonates by virtue of its simplicity; Chaplin assuming some falsetto highs over sombre piano chords that really do hit home. At its peak, the song carries the power of Keane classic Bedshaped.
More curious is I Remember You, which tip-toes into vaguely ’80s territory. There’s a melodic hook, or bounce, that feels very Cure-like (circa Close To Me), before a saxophone solo really brings on the cheese (think Bowie mixed with Hall & Oates). Sadly, it doesn’t work.
But more satisfyingly, Bring The Rain is another sky-scraping epic that builds from a robotic, almost futuristic sound into something quite beautiful (and, sorry, Keane-like), while former single Quicksand is alive with crowd-pleasing melodies and catchy elements. It’s a song shot through with optimism and, yes, more Keane comparisons. But – again – favourable ones.
Title track The Wave rounds things off with another piano-backed slow-building ballad that’s rife with sea-based imagery. But the album could perhaps have used a more euphoric finale.
In spite of this, however, Chaplin’s first solo offering is a good collection of songs that are sure to please his fans, even if they don’t stray too far from his comfort zone.
Download picks: Still Waiting, Hardened Heart, Worthless Words, Bring The Rain, Quicksand