After Keane took a break after 2012’s “Strangeland”, frontman Tom Chaplin found himself caught in a downward spiral of substance abuse which almost cost him everything he held dear. Fortunately, he came out of the other side and has channeled his, at times, harrowing journey into debut solo album “The Wave”.
Introspective opener “Still Waiting” is a sure sign of what to expect. The music still sounds like Keane with orchestral flourishes over contemplative piano chords. However, it is the lyrics that illustrate Chaplin’s dark plight. He talks of “phantoms in the shadows” and being “pulled from the wreckage”. “Hardened Heart” is an almost unbearable explicitly personal song about hurting the people you love. It’s a stark reminder that there is a real person with real relationships behind the fame and success.
Thankfully, there are plenty of upbeat songs to stop the album from becoming too meditative. “The River” contains startling bursts of uplifting 80s pop synths while “Bring the Rain” frames the bleak lyrics around a colorful pop song. Throughout, Chaplin’s voice is as rich and full as ever, but there is a hitherto unheard vulnerability to it especially on the fragile “Worthless Words”. Similarly, “Hold On To Our Love” begins as a simple, skeletal ballad backed only by a piano. It’s a heartbreakingly honest appeal to his wife to stay with him which builds to a truly epic climax replete with a stirring gospel choir. It’s a fitting end to the record, as it concludes on a hopeful note.
What could have been an overwrought, confessional album actually comes across as very powerful and surprisingly catchy. Despite his hellish journey, Chaplin has succeeded in creating a lasting, memorable album.