Although far from a household name, Tommy Keene has been around for a long time and has a strong following in power-pop circles. He’s never had a hit record per se, but those who are knowledgeable about the indie and melodic rock scene are very familiar with the singer-singwriter’s catalogue; he’s been a critical favorite for almost thirty years. Not exceedingly prolific, there have been a couple of breaks in his career, but just as interestingly, a couple of kick-starts. (I really thought the Alias retrospective The Real Underground would have launched him into the stratosphere…maybe with a Warner Brothers or Columbia budget it might have).
He’s been on the cusp of stardom for so long he probably has an office there. Geffen Records tried to promote him as a pop hero in the post-New Wave era. He’s had credible players like Peter Buck, Jay Bennett and Robin Wilson helping out on albums where his strong originals are often accompanied by great cover songs like Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons” or “Tattoo” from The Who Sell Out. He’s partnered with Bob Pollard and hit the road as a lead guitarist (where he rocks considerably harder than on his own material) with Paul Westerberg and Velvet Crush. But despite often great critical acclaim, he’s managed to stay on the cult side of the popularity fence while far less talented artists landed on the front pages.
Tommy Keene live performing “Run Now“
There are a lot of artists who haven’t hit a high note in their catalogue to touch “Places That Are Gone“, “Run Now” or “Back To Zero“, and while I don’t think he’s recaptured that majesty in a while himself, there’s a great body of work out there well worth exploring. I think at this stage of the game he’s just in it to please himself, which allows him to wallow in the areas he enjoys without concern for the headlines. It gives him a chance to dabble in artistic relationships he enjoys, do his own thing or pinch-hit with others, and every four years or so drop another project out there for the fans (while that group may not be massive, they are loyal). Sounds like a nice life to me.
You can read my review of In The Late Bright in Blurt Magazine.
Tour info, clips and tons more at Tommy Keene’s website.