CD Reviews for 04/14/06 – Tommy Keene

Compact Capsules for 04/14/06
by Dan Ferguson

Tommy Keene
Crashing the Ether
11:30 Records ELV-7010

As long as the phrase indie pop has been around, so has Tommy Keene. Call him one of the original craftsmen of the subgenre that originated with independent releases flourishing on left end of the dial college radio stations beginning as far back as the early 1980s. Along with bands like REM, the dBs and Let’s Active, Keene came out of the highly fertile Middle Atlantic-to-South region that spanned Washington, D.C. to Athens, Georgia. Calling the D.C. suburbs his home in those days, it was the 1984 power pop masterpiece Places That Are Gone (Dolphin Records) that first raised eyebrows among the rock music cognoscenti. All of half a dozen tracks, the Village Voice declared the record its EP of the year. Two years later in 1986 brought the album Songs From the Film. A watershed release in the grand scheme of things, the album featured two MTV videos for the songs “Listen To Me” and “Places That Are Gone”, and spent a dozen weeks in Billboard Magazine’s Top 200. A model of consistency over the last 20-plus years in the pop business moving between independent and major labels and now back in the indie ranks, Keene’s taut, highly melodic tunes have always been known for the ring and shimmer of guitars, not to mention the all important hook. Call it ear candy, if you will. The 10 tracks comprising his latest release titled Crashing the Ether are no exception to the standard set during that run. Keene’s first studio release – he actually recorded most all of Crashing the Ether at his L.A. home – in four years and debut for the North Carolina-based Eleven Thirty record label, his pop craftsmanship from the songwriting and arranging to his singing and guitar playing is in full bloom on this album, the 10th solo release in his lengthy career. Try not falling for the textured sonics of the irresistible opening track “Black & White New York”. It sets the stage for all that is to come. The songs are an alluring lot with subject matter ranging from Warren Beatty (the catchy and quirky “Warren In the ’60s”) to a bit of Lone Star controversy (“Texas Tower #4”). In all, Crashing the Ether is a most welcome release from a fellow who while considered an elder statesman of the indie pop scene, is still crafting vital goods. (Eleven Thirty Records, 449-A Trollingwood Road, Haw River, NC 27258, or

Tommy Keene is at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on Friday, April 21. He opens for Robert Pollard. The Paradise is located at 967-969 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Call (617) 562-8800 or check the club’s web site at

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)<...