Something Else! sneak peek: Tommy Keene, "Running For Your Life" (2011)

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Tommy Keene is still making what sounds like lost power pop gems from decades back, except they are brand new.

“Running For Your Life,” a concussive, sun-drenched blast of summer fun from the forthcoming Behind the Parade, to be issued on Aug. 30 as his third release on Second Motion, seems to pick up right where Keene left off on his celebrated 1984 EP Places That Are Gone — a smash-hit little independent release that ended up getting rave reviews from Rolling Stone and the Village Voice.

Alas, what happened next for Keene is an oft-told lament: Signed with a major, got set up with a big-name producer (former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick), put out a mid-charting LP (the pretty good Songs from the Film in 1986) and then disappeared into the ether. Of course, he didn’t really go away; it was just that no one was listening anymore — a criminal oversight. Because Keene continued to put out these interesting (if sometimes uneven) recordings, each filled with moments that could surprise, delight and mildly disappoint, but never bore.

Reason: Keene’s canny knack for the excellently crafted pop moment, shaped through dilated ensemble performances and punctuated by these rip-cord riffs. All of that remains here, but what’s different — and what has unfortunately so seldom been captured over his recording career — is the crackling, kinetic energy of Keene’s live performances.

The propulsive “Running For Your Life” is aptly named, since it sounds like it was played with one foot firmly depressing the gas pedal.

Tommy Keene’s Behind the Parade will be released later this month in three formats — CD, mp3 and limited-edition 180-gram vinyl. It’s perhaps his most complete project since reemerging in the last decade when he joined Guided By Voices on the East and West Coast legs of their farewell tour. Keene later worked with Robert Pollard as a member of his post GBV band, the Ascended Masters, and on the LP Blues and Boogie Shoes, under the Keene Brothers moniker.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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