One Track Mind: Mike Keneally, “Popes” from You Must Be This Tall (2013)

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Mike Keneally’s “Popes” saunters in like an amiable friend, then proceeds to begin telling ever more complex and entertaining tales — making for an intriguing introduction to the forthcoming You Must Be This Tall.

This track, and its just-premiered Dimitriya-directed video, arrives in advance of what will be Keneally’s 24th solo release, and first since his delightfully pop-focused collaboration with XTC’s Andy Partridge, last year’s Wing Beat Fantastic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Popes” takes a more experimental bent, in keeping with a layered and inventive discography that traces back to Keneally’s debut as a stunt guitarist for Frank Zappa in the late 1980s.

Keneally — who is just as likely to be found fronting his fun metal group Dethklok as he is sitting in on keyboards with Joe Satriani — is nothing if not adaptable. Open to anything, he seems to be just as off-handedly brilliant at one thing as any other. In keeping, Keneally and Co. set out on an appropriately, and quite thrillingly circuitous musical journey — even as lyrics tumble out like tip-of-your-tongue exclamations. Then, as if your garrulous visitor had suddenly remembered a previous engagement, “Popes” (which also features Keneally’s regular touring band of Bryan Beller, Joe Travers and Rick Musallam) comes to a winkingly abrupt end.

All of which sets the table perfectly for Keneally’s latest Exowax release, which we’re told will include a final collaboration with Partridge, called “Indicator.” The title track, meanwhile, is a solo version of a piece that debuted as part of Keneally’s stunning earlier work with the Metropole Orkest.

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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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