Friday, September 17, 2010
Tommy Keene - Songs From The Film - LIVE!!
Guess what is exactly 2 hours and ten minutes from Havertown, PA (going north) and 2 hours, 10 minutes from Red Hook, NY (heading south)? Brooklyn, And that's where worlds collided at The Rock Shop, a tiny new venue in the heart of Park Slope that brought together me and my old college pal, JM, plus trusted accomplice Chopped Liver for a night of reliving our debauched late 20's (no wonder we couldn't find wives until our 30's). The soundtrack? The magnificent Tommy Keene, currently on a limited 8 date tour that features Tommy and band zipping through the power pop landmark Songs For The Film from start to finish. How could we not go see that?
Songs From The Film, you say? You bet - it stands with the best of Big Star, Matthew Sweet, The Plimsouls and The Raspberries as the cream of the crop of the critic wet dream genre of power pop. The night began with the first sighting of JM in four years (and a great burger at Bonnie's Grill), the last being a disastrous screening of the Jack Black stinker, Nacho Libre, that apparently JM's kid still hails as a classic. And for chrissakes, isn't it time for a moratorium on Jack Black movies? The guy has been in about 700 movies in the last 10 years, and by my count has been tolerable in maybe two, High Fidelity and Tropic Thunder. And don't even start with Tenacious D - that is some horrid, unfunny pain. Jack Black makes Will Ferrell look like he has range. But I digress.
The first time JM and I saw Tommy Keene was on a hellacious double date / double bill (Peter Case opened - don't get me started on all you fuckers that refuse to acknowledge Case as one of the great under appreciated American songwriters of the last quarter century) at Maxwell's in Hoboken. It was all going so well until JM and I tried to answer the question "What if we tried to drink all of the beer in New Jersey?" I can't say we satisfactorily answered the question, but I can hazard a guess our dates might have given the night a slightly unsatisfactory review. I do remember a night spent in my date's bathroom, alternately heaving and lying prostrate on the floor, reveling in the refreshing flop sweat respite delivered by the icy cool blue and white bathroom floor tiles. Yep, I was a keeper. But again I digress.
Tommy Keene circa 2010 is enjoying a slight burnishing of his alreay considerable legend based on the absolutely essential career spanning double disc compilation, punnily titled Tommy Keene You Hear Me? Filled with alternate universe hits like "Places That Are Gone", "When Our Vows Break", "Love is A Dangerous Thing" and "Back to Zero Now", it's a power pop nerd's treat as it includes 7 tracks each from the difficult to find Songs From The Film and the almost impossible to find Based on Happy Times. Keene is an exceptional guitarist (just ask acolytes Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg) and his music is defined by his crunchy jangle, as well as his sharp (and sometime opaque) songwriting and plaintive vocals.
Last night's giddy romp that ran from "Places That Are Gone" through "The Story Ends" was a glorious and nostalgic celebration that happened, according to Keene, "because it seemed like it was time. It's everyone's favorite album. Not mine, but everyone else's". The songs crackled with urgency as Keene smacked us in the face with his meaty but lean guitar leads, playing only was absolutely necessary. Especially thumping was his reading of Lou Reed's scathing account of his institutionalized electro-shock therapy, "Kill Your Sons", each note a crushing blow. Keene has aged remarkably well and his vocals still carry just the right mix of heartache and sneer. And major kudos to the soundman, whose mix was clean and crisp and still loud enough to rattle walls. Excellent, excellent sound. Also of note was the abundant appearance of homo obscura, rock nerds dedicated to the pursuit of obscure power pop bands (and yes... guilty as charged.). Openers Valley Lodge (fizzy glam pop featuring wise guy singer Dave Hill's deadpan asides on selling songs for commercials, Gary Glitter and pedophilia) and Title Tracks, whose debut It Was Easy is one of 2010's best pop records (and whose set included The Who's "So Sad About Us"), set the stage perfectly for Keene's valentine to long-time fans.
JM - I hope you got home OK. Let's do this again.
Tommy Keene - "Places That Are Gone"
Tommy Keene - "Love Is A Dangerous Thing"
Title Tracks - "Black Bubblegum"
Valley Lodge - "Comin' Around"
Chopped Liver, Tommy Keene, TK