When you've been pursuing your craft for the better part of 30 years and approximately a dozen albums without the benefit of universal adulation, you're either wholly obsessed or doggedly determined. In Tommy Keene's case, it's likely a mixture of both. Hailed by some as power pop's most fervent champion, he has been obsessed with making music for nearly three decades, toiling away with impressive results while winning the respect of a small but loyal group of listeners who hold everything he's ever offered in the highest esteem.
Long before now, Keene should have been welcomed into the pop pantheon, alongside McCartney, Rundgren, Wilson and all the other meticulous musicians long acknowledged for their creativity and consistency. Ask his devotees and they'll tell you Tommy Keene is the equal of them all. Behind the Parade, Keene's latest album and his third release on Second Motion (including last year's career spanning retrospective You Hear Me), provides the latest body of proof. Like its predecessors, the disc affirms his pop proficiency, mastery of his craft and his ability to ensure instant accessibility given the benefit of emphatic hooks, irresistible refrains and the kind of vibrant, jangly melodies that bring to mind a distinctly '60s sensibility.
Keene may once have worshiped at the altar of the Beatles, Byrds and Beach Boys, but his synthesis of sounds transcends these retro references and stirs it into something that's wholly fresh and exhilarating. Ranging from the proto-Keene jangle of 'Already Made Up Your Mind' and the edgy, power pop (no, he doesn't mind that description - much) storytelling of 'Running For Your Life' and 'His Mother's Son' to the moody, ambient instrumental 'La Castana' and the horn-infused opener 'Deep Six Saturday,' Behind the Parade finds Tommy ably taking a few risks while managing to play to his considerable strengths. Behind the Parade, along with his recent output, shows Keene is akin to an athlete rediscovering his prime, only in this artist's case, he never left it.