Tommy Keene has been a name to drop among the power pop cognoscenti
for a long time now - in fact, the man has been playing since the
late '70s. Keene has played as a sideman with some big names like
Velvet Crush, Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg,
but he's most revered for his solo records, starting with 1984's Places
That Are Gone EP and finishing (so far) with this 8th studio album.
Man, is this record a gem - Keene can pen a tune that gets inside
your head like few others, and backs them up with crunching guitars
and snappy rhythms that remind of the Beatles, Who,
Kinks and much of the greatest power pop of the '60s while
adding his own personal, timeless stamp of authority.
In The Late Bright takes a little while to get going; the
first few songs have a bit of a demo feel. Vocals (Keene has a breathy
tenor very like the aforementioned Velvet Crush's Paul Chastain)
and guitars are somewhat subdued, the drums sometimes sound like they're
done by a machine, and the keyboard touches can be ever so slightly
cheesy. The album really kicks into gear with "Tomorrow's Gone
Tonight" and "Goodbye Jane" - these two are typical
Keene instant classics, with Jon Richardson's drums lifting
the songs to whole new level, plus killer tunes and distinctive, ringing
guitar. Things just keep cranking from there; pretty much every song
is a perfect pop jewel, but a couple merit special mention. "Elevated"
is a cool, virtuoso guitar instrumental that really shows off Keene's
skills; it reminds of a late period Lou Reed work out with
a dash of Television thrown in.
"The Right Time To Fly" has a great, stabbing guitar midsection,
just like those awe-inspiring maelstroms that Pete Townshend
put into nearly every mid-60s Who tune, and the closing "Hide
Your Eyes" quite possibly saves the best tune of all for last,
although I keep changing my mind between this one and "Tomorrow's
Keene fans will want to snap this one up, and hopefully it will be
a great introduction for new fans. This is one dude who is well overdue
for a career retrospective CD; not sure if that's on the horizon,
but I do know that reissues of his older albums are coming later this
year. Try out the '90s albums Ten Years After or Isolation
Party for starters, but you can't really go wrong with a single
one of 'em.
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