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Between 1982 and 1989, Tommy Keene released a handful of superb records that blended intelligent lyrics and classically styled pop melodies with Keene’s stellar guitar work to create some of the most satisfying American pop of the era (especially his superb major-label debut, 1986’s Songs from the Film). This period represented Keene’s creative peak, but was also something of a millstone, as his fans kept wondering when (or if) Keene was ever going to make a record that good again. Of course, Keene has already made several fine albums since then (most notably Isolation Party and Ten Years After), but Crashing the Ether is the album Songs from the Film fans have been waiting for — ten songs full of walloping drums, guitar lines that crunch and jangle at once, glorious melodies that speak eloquently of pleasure and sadness, and lyrics that deal with adult matters of the heart and mind without sounding either glum or unrealistic. While Keene is in fine voice on these sessions, it’s the guitar work that really makes Crashing the Ether stand out — Keene recorded the album in his home studio, and without the worry of having to watch the clock he’s created ten tracks brimming with beautifully layered guitar lines, especially on “Warren in the 60s,” “Alta Loma,” and “Texas Tower #4,” and they all bounce beautifully off John Richardson’s thundering drum tracks and the rock-solid bass figures (overdubbed by Keene himself). It’s anyone’s guess if Crashing the Ether will finally elevate Tommy Keene from cult figure to the wider recognition he’s so long deserved, but for anyone who has been following his career, it’s a splendid return to form and for first-time listeners, it’s a fine example of what Keene does so well — it’s must listening for fans of smart guitar-driven pop.

-Mark Deming,

Tommy Keene-CRASHING THE ETHER (2006)


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