Editors' pick

Tommy Keene

Rock
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Editorial Review

Mark Jenkins reviewed a June 2006 Tommy Keene performance for The Washington Post:

Tommy Keene is hardly the only power-pop auteur who never attracted the audience he deserved. (Let us now mourn the careers of Big Star, the Chills, Dwight Twilley and so on.) But for some, the Bethesda-bred singer and guitarist remains Washington's great jangle-rock hope, even if he has lived in L.A. since the late '80s. So the faithful crowded Iota Saturday night for a performance by Keene and his three-piece band, and seemed entirely content with a set that emphasized the musician's solid new album, "Crashing the Ether," over better-known material.

The new songs (among them "Black & White in New York," which opened the set, as it does the album, and "Quit That Scene") were similar in mode and mood to Keene's earlier compositions. As always, the melodies were yearning and the lyrics wistful, with verse-ending lines punctuated by descending guitar riffs. Unlike many power-poppers, however, Keene isn't content to be a rhythm guitarist. He's made a second career of playing lead, notably for Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard, and his more recent albums are showcases for his playing as much as his writing.

Keene supported the gentler passages with rippling figures that were distantly descended from the Byrds. But he also employed more unruly tactics, summoning peals of feedback, scrubbing the mike stand with his guitar and briefly venturing into the anarchic style of Lou Reed, whose "Kill Your Sons" took its standard place as Keene's final encore. Such aggressive tactics probably won't make the former Washingtonian a belated star, but they did make for an electrifying set.