Tommy Keene – Ten Years After (1996)
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Power pop: It’s a genre close to my heart, and yet one not often discussed here. This is mostly because, as much as I love the stuff, it’s really hard to get right; for every Cheap Trick or Greenberry Woods, there’s a band that apes all the form and function without the top-flight songwriting. I’m pretty sure I purchased almost everything the old, good Big Deal Records released between 1996 and 1998, and all I ended up with was a stack of CDs I listened to once and I’ll never be able to sell. As much as I struggled to find that hidden, lost gem…well, it’s better just to listen to old Cheap Trick records, more often than not.

Or this one. Ten Years After is one of the few discs I own that’s actually been dog-eared over time; the worn, frayed packaging suggests hundreds, if not thousands of listens, and it tells the truth. I fell in love with this album from the opening chords of the first track, “Going Out Again” (download), and for good reason. It’s everything power pop is supposed to be: Crunchy on the outside and gooey sweet on the inside, with lyrics full of bloody-nosed bravado, all behind a voice that — full of shining bluster though it may be — is just wobbly and down-to-earth enough to make you believe, even for a minute, that if you just got off your dead ass, you could be a rock star too.

Of course, Keene isn’t a rock star, not really; though his sporadic releases are beloved by a passionate few, you’ve probably never heard of him — and even if you have, you probably thought he hadn’t released anything since the mid ’80s. Not true, as his website attests, and though I haven’t loved any of his releases as much as I do Ten Years After, they all have more than their fair share of great moments. After you’re done rocking to “Going Out Again,” marvel at the perfect “If You’re Getting Married Tonight” (download), go to Keene’s site, and get yourself acquainted.