Friday, February 4, 2011
Tommy Keene - Based On Happy Times
Based On Happy Times (1989) ***1/2
Second time wasn't the charm for Keene and his sophomore offering for Geffen Records was another musical winner yet commercial dud. Ditching his old band and hiring a fresh new rhythm section, Keene delivers a tougher power-trio sound that leans closer to rock than pop. It's only a shade lesser as a whole than Songs From the Film, mostly due to an unpleasanter, dryer sound, and slightly less hooky songcraft. Despite the harder rocking sound, this isn't as joyously danceable as some of Keene's previous work, as the prevailing mood accounts for Keene's most sour and dour release. The title track is a ballad that would border on the listless if not for the emphatic force of Keene's bitterness, the ironic punchline to the title being, "....not the way I feel now." Another lilting ballad, "Where Have All Your Friends Gone," obliquely answers that question by having Keene set the scene in the graveyard. It's not entirely all bad vibes and grey skies, but it mostly is; the biggest bummer, though, is Keene's horrid, jokey cover of the Beach Boys' "Our Car Club," that situated smack at #8 in the middle of the album nearly throws the entire proceedings off kilter. The definition of a roadblock track, its eminent and necessary skippability contrasts sharply sitting beside the preceding mid-tempo rocker, "Highwire Days," which counts as the album's strongest cut. At points resembling a more despondent Pleased To Meet Me-era Replacements, this is yet another consistently excellent release from Keene that's quite snap-uppable if you spot it in the cut-out bins. Peter Buck plays on a pair of tracks, offering a bit of mandolin on the closing track, "A Way Out," and cult legendary popmeister Jules Shear sports a co-writing credit on a pair of tunes ("When Our Vows Break," "If We Run Away").
No YouTubes available that I can find, this baby sank like a stone.