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Tommy Keene

Crashing the Ether (Eleven Thirty)

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Since 1982, he's been doing power-pop (the melancholy songcraft of the Byrds plus the crackling dynamism of the Who), garnering favorable reviews and a cult following, only to see ephemeral "talents" top the charts. While yesterday's stars dissolve into VH1 Behind the Music episodes, Keene plugs away, pleasing pop-lovers everywhere.

Crashing the Ether finds him playing most of the instruments, with vocal assists from Gin Blossoms' Jesse Valenzuela. Keene's reedy voice, reminiscent of Big Star's Alex Chilton and those Teenage Fanclub fellows, practically drips with ironic sarcasm born of hard-earned wisdom and heartbreak. "Quit That Scene" is driven by a couple of chiming, catchy, winsome guitar riffs that (almost) belie the lyrics "Nothing warm or sunny here/It's just that I'm fucked-up." The mini-epic "I've Heard That Wind Blow Before" is Keene's very own "Tomorrow Never Knows"-- explosive drums pound out a cyclic pattern, while slabs of spidery, distorted guitars weave a seething psychedelic matrix, with Keene's vocals the calm in the center of the storm -- almost scary, but exhilarating. This Ether will send power-pop aficionados to Cloud 9.

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