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Tommy Keene: Isolation Party

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Tommy Keene

Album: Isolation Party
Label: Matador

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Tommy Keene has been making records for such a long time, and for such a small clique of dedicated power-pop admirers, that you have to wonder whether the time spent trying to get the recognition he deserves has prevented him from keeping track of what year it is. In fact, it's tempting to dismiss Keene as a quaint novelty, a musical refugee who refuses to adapt to today's climate. Sadly, Isolation Party isn't quite the "comeback" that 1996's Ten Years After was; the music is a little too slick, the hooks a bit too eager to please. The arrangements mimic (parody?) mid-'80s arena-rock, but Keene swaps macho posturing for a significantly wimpier demeanor. The retro nature of Isolation Party is endearing, but most of the tracks peter about anonymously in mid-tempo hell, sounding like The Replacements did after the booze and snot had long run dry. Keene's music is an anachronism, and surely in the context of, say, 1986, Isolation Party would have been perfect to show off to your hipster friends. Give him credit for remaining unfailingly bright in the face of a less-than-fortunate career, but Keene's music today sounds rather plain—enjoyable but at the same time sort of boring.