Hankering for a return to small venues and intimate audiences, Keane songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley gets his wish as his new project, Mt. Desolation, take the stage at the Bodega Social to play to a man dressed as a banana.
Sharing vocal duties with Keane bandmate Jesse Quin and the talented Jessica Staveley-Taylor (who, alongside her sisters The Staves, kick off the evening with a brilliant set), Mt. Desolation is a departure in style from Keane’s previous work, combining elements of folk, country and true Americana.
In theory, middle-class Sussex boys singing American style songs about travelling through Carolina and Virginia shouldn’t work, although the country tinged sound actually suits the downbeat voices of both Quin and Rice-Oxley. Whilst country standards such as Midnight Ghost and Platform 7 sound like the sort of thing you’d hear whilst chewing a piece of straw on a Kentucky veranda, much of the band’s sound is simply well crafted pop music, as you’d expect from one of the decade’s most popular songwriters.
For Keane fans there are familiar elements. Rice-Oxley’s distinctive piano is apparent throughout, and the lyrical content is as introspective and yearning as many Keane records (the lyrics “I’ve tried so hard to be what the world expects of me/but I’m hampered by a craving to be free” sound like anything from their debut release Hopes and Fears).
What is particularly engaging about Mt Desolation is that you get the sense that they are a group of friends having a brilliant time. Set free from the pressure of a Keane release, Rice-Oxley and his band mates have come up with a melodic, entertaining brand of modern country music which owes as much to the likes of Cherry Ghost and the Band as it does to Kenny Rogers. The atmospheric State of our Affairs and the terrific single Departure close the set, leaving an appreciative crowd totally satisfied.