Artist: Tommy Keene
Album: Laugh In The Dark
Label: Second Motion
Release Date: 09/04/2015
A committed power pop purist, Tommy Keene has a creative trajectory that dates back to the ’80s. With both major label and indie output to his credit, not to mention extreme kudos from the nation’s leading music journals, he boasts a resume that includes contributions from some of the biggest names in the biz, among them producers T-Bone Burnett and Don Dixon, and master muso Robert Pollard (with whom he once partnered under the moniker the Keene Brothers). Not surprisingly then, even after eleven albums on, he remains tirelessly prolific. This decade has seen him especially involved; following You Hear Me, a two disc retrospective released for the Second Motion Records label, he put out Behind the Parade a year later and Excitement at Your Feet, a covers album, two years after that.
Now comes Laugh In The Dark, yet another outstanding example of Keene’s muscular but melodic style. Unlike his previous albums, all the songs are of recent vintage, written during an extraordinary writing streak that lasted from April until October of last year. Consequently, there’s a vibrancy at play that’s remarkable even for an artist of Keene’s capabilities.
As a result, Laugh In The Dark manages to come across with an effusive energy that makes its presence known throughout, from the opening outpour of “Out of My Mind” and on into the album’s essence. Whether it’s the one-two punch of “Dear Heloise,” the ruggedly assertive “Laugh In The Dark,” the sturdy and suggestive “I Belong to You” or the assured swagger of “I Want It To Be Over Now,” Keene’s tough yet tender approach makes each song immediately memorable. He varies that tack only briefly, and that change comes towards the end with the overly acoustic “Go Back Home” and the final track, “All Gone Away,” which, in a blindfold test, could pass as an outtake from the new ELO album. It ought to be enough to label Laugh In The Dark as yet another example of his outstanding effort, but then again, the same can be said of each release in Keene’s catalogue. Suffice it to say, it’s an excellent acquisition.
– Lee Zimmerman