sun 25/09/2022

Album: Tom Chaplin - Midpoint | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Tom Chaplin - Midpoint

Album: Tom Chaplin - Midpoint

Music that was always middle aged ironically ages gracefully

Travis, Coldplay, Haven, Elbow, Snow Patrol, Aqualung, Embrace, Starsailor, Turin Brakes, Athlete, Elbow, Doves… and of course Keane. The turn of the millennium deluge of sincere young men opening up their feelings to the world, their voices cracking into falsettos over grandiose post-U2 rhythms, really was quite a major cultural movement, wasn’t it?

Easy to mock – and indeed the target of some real hatred – but absolutely inescapable, and as defining of its time as any hipper sound.

Keane in particular exemplified the ostentatious sensitivity – and Tom Chaplin’s choirboy tones were up there with the more vicarly voice of Coldplay’s Chris Martin as a salve for the afflicted, as he sang of home and sanctuary, loss and longing. And he’s still at it now. Of course, a sound that was very “Radio 2” to begin with was one that would weather well, and Chaplin hasn’t really had to alter the soft-rock balladry of Keane that much.

OK this album is stripped back – it’s apparently a response to the Covid pandemic and a cancelled Keane tour, and it certainly is a step away from the arena – and there are some peculiar little flourishes in it. Lo-fi electronic arcade game bleeps on “Colourful Light”, bird song and honky-tonk piano in “Black Hole”, ambient drones on the title track and so on: all are neatly incorporated into the more conventional instrumentation.

Ultimately that instrumentation wins out though, and though in places it is intriguing to think what a more experimental Chaplin album would sound like, there’s nothing here that would scare the horses on Radio 2. And his own songwriting is certainly not a million miles from Keane leader Tim Rice-Oxley’s – in quality as well as in style. In fact, it really hits the spot more often than it misses, and it’s certainly stranger and more interesting than more cynical recent acts like Ed Sheeran who’ve taken this template and run with it.

The album’s high point is its most dramatic song, “Panoramic Eyes” with its ticking alarm clock rhythm – “human life is the sentimental dream of a planet desiring to be seen”. And the closer “Overshoot” really captures a certain reaction to chaos: “overshoot the horizon / cut and run from the world we’ve been building / with a bit of luck we’ll be dancing / when the ship goes down, darling hold my hand…”

It's easy to mock, indeed, and easy to see the reactions to depression, danger and a chaotic world in these lyrics as pat, comfortable public schoolboy homilies. But actually there’s a great deal more sensitivity to the phrasing and unflinching willingness to gaze into the void than there is in, say, Chris Martin’s writings. And with the world a whole lot more uncertain than it was 20 years ago, the appeal of this sonic sanctuary is a whole lot easier to appreciate. It’s a formula, but when he really digs deep, Chaplin is one of the very best at it.

@joemuggs

Below: Watch the video for "Midpoint"

There’s nothing here that would scare the horses on Radio 2

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