Tommy Keene

Behind the Parade

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Tommy Keene has been making records for well over 25 years, but the vagaries of the music business have forced his career to run in bursts -- a couple albums for Geffen here, a few releases on Matador there -- which have had more to do with commercial considerations than the quality of his music or his desire to present it to his audience. Behind the Parade is Keene's third album since 2006, an impressive flow of material by his standards, and like its two immediate predecessors, it ranks with the best music of his career; this is tough, wiry, and passionate guitar-based rock & roll with a glorious pop melodic sense, built around the framework of Keene's excellent songwriting, his forceful and emotionally resonant vocals, and his heady electric guitar work, as exciting as anyone playing classic pop today. The fact that Keene's music is just as strong, engaging, and beautifully crafted today as it was in the late '80s says plenty in his favor, but it also reveals a great deal about his ideas and approach; at the risk of sounding pretentious, Keene's best music is timeless, and one of the reasons Behind the Parade is as powerful in 2011 as Songs from the Film was in 1986 is, because he's never stopped writing songs that deal with love, loss, and the universal building blocks of human emotions, and he plays them with sincerity and emotional force that have little do to with changing musical tides. When he first burst on the music scene, Tommy Keene's music sounded like great, poppy, rock & roll with a large side order of passion and smarts, and he hasn't lost any of those strengths over the years; Behind the Parade is another superior album from one of rock's true unsung heroes, and chances are it will sound just as vital and exciting two decades hence as it does today.

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