Tommy Keene

Tommy Keene

Tommy Keene

Behind the Parade

Second Motion Records

Thirty years in the trade, and still not an overnight sensation. It’s not clear what’s missing here. Mr. Keene’s songwriting is interesting and inviting, music is a bit new wave/power pop and full of catchy hooks, and his vocals are radio-friendly while never sappy or overwrought. Maybe that’s the problem. I did a stint listening to FM pop last week on a cross-country drive, and today’s chart fillers are overwrought and exceptionally sappy. Yes, we face a pop music crisis in America nearly as challenging as the financial crisis or the vapidity of this year’s presidential cardboard cutouts. But that’s not Mr. Keene’s concern; he’s working hard to entertain us.

Ten tracks fill this disc, and all lie somewhere in that Bermuda triangle surrounding ’80s pop, ’90s country, and 21st century gut wrenching self-criticism. “Deep Six Saturday” leads off with a driving metal guitar riff that fakes out the head bangers (at the first Metal Sign he switches gears and the smooth harmonies kick in) it’s the Beatles and the Plimsouls channeling through him, and in “Already Made Up Your Mind” carries on bravely whistling past the graveyard. The usual suspects are all here: meeting a new girl, having her dump you, getting beat up by the new guy in her life. It happens to all of us but Mr. Keene makes you feel bad when it happens to him. “Factory Town” and “His Mother’s Son” could be the Pogues or The Fixx, but they’re not; Mr. Keene offers a broad perspective at this point in his career. Life is hard, music is hard, and you have to work hard to keep both fresh and worthwhile. There’s a heart in this music, and all he asks is for you to give him a listen. Or maybe ten.

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