Ten Years After (1996) ***1/2
If you're expecting a tribute to Alvin Lee's bloozy classic rock combo, you must not know Keene: it's yet another power-pop gem that skirts the line between alternative and mainstream rock, though by the mid-'90s an entire generation of Goo Goo Third Gin Blossom Blinds had made the patented Replacements/Keene mid-'80s alt.style the mainstream sound. So don't complain that this sounds generic, kids, give the old man some credit, it's his style, he's entitled to it. Some of the rockers sound a bit forced, but that's par for course on most late-period Keene albums, and anyway, "Today and Tomorrow," kicks with punchy urgency. A pair of mid-tempo ballads are the highlights, with the stunning, "Silent Town," one of my favorite all-time Keene tunes, and the moody "Before the Lights Go Down," not far behind: Keene is always at his best when he's the most rueful and melancholy. Once again he throws in some alternately wistful and bitter balladry ("If You're Getting Married Tonight," "Your Heart Beats Alone"), though perhaps the country-ish leanings of "You Can't Wait for Time," were a slight - slight - mistake. The album ends with the band running halfway through the Who's "It's Not True," before shutting off without even bothering to reach the chorus. The sound is more Happy Times hard and dry rocking than Places jingle-jangling (I know which style I prefer, but oh well). Another unsurprising album of really good Keene tunes; after such a long absence, it's good to have one of the few pleasures you can rely upon in this world.