Keane, ‘Sovereign Light Café’ – Song Review
Ah, nostalgia: one of the most potent of pop music emotions, the animating force behind some of our best anthems, be it the yearning to be taken home, to be played a song, to go back to some time of innocence, or — in the case of Keane — to the ‘Sovereign Light Café.’
‘Sovereign Light Café,’ the next single off of the British band’s fourth studio album, ‘Strangeland’ — which is currently enjoying its second week at the No. 1 spot on U.K. album charts — will be released on July 16. The song’s all goosebumps, wistful wishes and first crushes, what your 30-year-old self remembers your 15-year-old self listening to while feeling the first blush of love. Which makes sense, because that’s what Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley was thinking about when he wrote it, as evidenced by this recent blog post of his:
I had a sketch of the melody on a cassette and was listening to it on a flight into Mexico in 2009. I couldn’t come up with any words, but then I was sitting in a bus on the way from Sao Paulo airport to our hotel and suddenly the name of the old cafe on Bexhill seafront came into my head. I had actually always wanted to write a song with that title – when I was about 16 I remember being on holiday with Richard and having a song that went “Sovereign Light Cafe, down by the sea, go there with me” or something….it was a crap song! Anyway after a gap of many years the phrase popped back into my head and unlocked this idea of looking back to the beginning and trying to work out what had happened to me, and to us, over the last 15 years or so.
The track is as endearing as a golden retriever snuggling a baby sloth on top of a Funfetti cake. After an opening of “I’m going back to a time when we owned this town,” the listener is lead through a tour of English seaside memory, of Powder Mill Lane, the Palace Arcade, of friends and lovers and clueless clowns, all the stuff of wild-eyed dreaming youth — so honest and so damn catchy that it pierces the armor of hard-earned irony. It’s the kind of track for staring off into the distance, remembering all the good times you (or Keane) had back in East Sussex.
The “remember when” track has been done a million times before, but it’s just so perfect here that the listener has to lean back, melt a little, and tear up a bit at the beauty of what came before — and, maybe, at what they’re hearing now.
Listen to Keane’s ‘Sovereign Light Café’