Rhythm & Views

Tommy Keene

Twenty-five years ago, Tommy Keene was a hot young thing atop the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll, but like his power-pop peers--namely Marshall Crenshaw and Tommy Heath (of Tommy Tutone)--he has eked out a remarkable, if somewhat commercially ignored, career on the margins of the record industry.

Although in recent years, he has collaborated with Robert Pollard (Guided by Voices) for an album credited to The Keene Brothers, Keene will likely spend much of the spring on tour in support of this, his first solo studio album since 2006's home-recorded Crashing the Ether.

With In the Late Bright, Keene once again unveils 11 expertly crafted, guitar-powered pop songs. This is a CD you pop into your car stereo, and suddenly, you've driven for miles, pushed along by buoyant melodies, layered guitars and cracking drums. It's difficult to spotlight the best tunes when they all succeed at sticking in your head, but let's take a moment to praise the shimmeringly gorgeous ballad "Save This Harmony," which in more mainstream hands (a flashy country-pop singer, say) would be a radio hit.

On the harder edge, there's a track like "Tomorrow's Gone Tonight," full of cynical lyrics ("What if your friends could see you now? / They never wanted to somehow") and big, open and ringing Fender Telecaster chords. Indeed, the open highway at twilight has never felt so good as when one cruises with In the Late Bright blasting.

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