Tommy Keene has released another Tommy Keene album. That
might sound like the most obvious statement one could make, but it’s also an
accurate assessment – if you’ve heard Isolation
Party or Crashing the Ether, you
could plug In the Late Bright alongside them without raising an eyebrow.
has a pleasing but affected voice when he sings in a lower register (which he usually
does), but his style and tone makes him sound complacent, as if his own
material isn’t exciting enough to get invested in. When he does perk up a bit
(the last verse of “Save This Harmony”, for instance), it’s like night and day.
Pair up a bit of emotion with some chiming Byrds guitar (“Tomorrow’s Gone
Tonight”) and you have flashes of what would be more appealing than his more
somber set pieces. The clear exception to the formula is the instrumental
“Elevated”, perhaps meant to be an aural palette cleanser to set up the most
accessible tracks, “Realize Your Mind”
and “The Right Time To Fly” (complete with faux Who workout mid-song).
Because In the Late
Bright is such prototypical Keene
it will sound familiar to his fans, who will no doubt celebrate this release
with more spirit than I. But he’s done little here to expand his horizons or
attract new fans, and none of these tracks
are going to make a casual listener – or a radio programmer – sit up and take
notice. It’s not that the songs are bad; they’re just not memorable, just like the musicianship is competent but rarely
generates sparks. Perhaps a different
producer would have shaken things up; even something as simple as harmony
vocals could go a long way to disrupt this sonic plateau. But if Keene is comfortable in
his own skin, that’s fine – but that’s exactly where the rest of the world will
likely be happy to leave him.
Standout Tracks: “Realize Your Mind,” ‘The Right Time to Fly,” “Goodbye Jane” BILL HOLMES