Tommy Keene has been around forever, but unlike a lot of artists, he’s had the temerity to get better with every release. His success has paralleled top-notch contemporary pop songsmiths like Marshall Crenshaw, Willie Nile and Ben Vaughn. For better or worse, he’s attained about the same level of success. There have been deals with Matador and Geffen and production from Don Dixon and T–Bone Burnett, but Keene has consistently flown under the radar, despite being a true double-edged sword: a masterful composer that is also one hell of a guitar player.
Whatever incarnation you’ve seen Keene in, you can count on hooky guitar-driven pop being the way of the walk. His first band opened for Grin and the Raspberries, both who have long been a favorite of his. It shows in the jangly pop of stuff like "Late Bright". He tears that track and "Realize Your Mind" up like he was still playing for Velvet Crush or In The Late Bright is full of songs that start off strong and head for the stratosphere. People are still taking notice. In addition to playing in Boston Spaceships, he also teamed up in 2006 with Bob Pollard for a duo project called the Keene Brothers. It’s a great pairing that I’ll definitely have to check out, as most of Keene’s work sounds like Pollard’s GbV best, just twice as long.
If you like guitar-driven pop, whether it be Big Star, Teenage Fanclub or even Brian Jonestown Massacre, In The Late Bright is pretty much a necessity. The guitars are loud and in your face and the harmonies are spot on from note one to note last. You won’t find much better in this day and age. Keene hasn’t made it almost thirty years in this game by shorting you on the hooks or the songs and he doesn’t appear to be starting on In The Late Bright.