Tommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.
Keene: I remember seeing Sparks on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert one night in the ‘70s and instantly focusing in on the keyboard player. He was dressed as a prototypical nerd—button-down white shirt, bowtie and glasses—but the most curious thing about him was that he had a Hitler mustache. What the hell? That was my introduction to Sparks, fronted by the Mael Brothers, Ron and Russell, a pair of L.A. natives transplanted to the U.K. after finding overnight stardom there. I rushed out to the record store and bought Kimono My House, their third album that opened the floodgates to continuing acclaim across the pond and varying degrees of indifference to this day in the States. Their sound can best be described as glam rock complete with driving guitars, thumping beats and operatic vocals served over an endless supply of hilarious tongue-in-cheek lyrics supplied by Ron, main songwriter and that keyboard player, while brother Russell, the consummate frontman, handles the vocals.
On this past Valentine’s Day, the Brothers Mael performed their new album, Exotic Creatures Of The Deep, in its entirety, as well Kimono My House from start to finish before returning for a smorgasbord of other nuggets from their canon of 21 albums as encores. With perfect sound, a top-notch young band (including Steve McDonald from Redd Kross on bass), I felt like I was transplanted back to the Fillmore East as a psychedelic light show flashed on the back scrim.
“Good Morning” from Exotic Creatures Of The Deep: