Tommy Keene – Excitement at Your Feet

Is it possible for an album to sound both totally illogical and perfectly natural? If so, Tommy Keene has threaded that needle. Without ever generating a signature song (1984’s “Places That Are Gone” probably comes closest) or a radio staple, through perseverance and chops Keene has established himself as arguably the standard-bearer for American power pop. Keene’s way with a hook has played a big role in his longevity, so it’s odd to find him neutralizing that strength by releasing an entire album of covers. He imbues each of these eleven tracks, all but one culled from 1980 or earlier, with his trademark chiming guitars, plaintive vocals and burly backbeat, turning Excitement At Your Feet into a reasonable facsimile of a “regular” Tommy Keene album.

Bizarrely, Excitement’s three oldest tracks each saw their first release in 1965. Keene’s version of The Who’s “Much Too Much” provides more ammunition for those championing Townshend & Co. as the first power pop band, and he does an equally great job with the Stones’ “Ride On Baby.” Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” is the album’s one acoustic detour (and only chart-denter), and feels relatively lifeless. The chronological outlier, Guided By Voices’ “Choking Tara,” is of course a stylistic match as well as a nod to his Keene Brothers collaborator Robert Pollard – it’s a mystery why if Keene was willing to make this exception he didn’t include other worthy material from the past 30 years.

Mink DeVille’s “Let Me Dream If I Want To” works like a charm as a fitting if unexpected pick. But Keene bats just .500 on the truly left field selections. With only moderate re-working he turns early Echo & the Bunnymen single “The Puppet” into a decent match, but my high hopes for Roxy Music’s “Out of the Blue” were dashed – the maximalist track seems primed for fireworks given Keene’s charging guitar treatment, and its finale placement speaks to its potential, but the spark never ignites.

The overly faithful rendition of Television’s “Guiding Light” reveals the subtle trick that propels Excitement At Your Feet. None of the eleven tracks Keene selected is inextricably linked to the original artist yet he resists the urge for major re-invention, allowing both his own personality and those of his forebears to shine through.

Tommy Keene
Excitement At Your Feet
[Second Motion]