Virtually an EP based on a running time of just over thirty minutes, recorded, like many of his albums, largely by himself with help on drums and occasional other instruments, Tommy Keene’s Excitement at Your Feet is an exercise in contemporary musicology, permeated with passion, by an artist with his own estimable pedigree.
A past master of power pop at its finest, the Washington DC native is no stranger to discerning covers–hear his version of Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons” on 1986’s Songs From the Film--so a collection such as this should come as no surprise. Nor should its relatively astute execution of its concept: familiar names such as The Rolling Stones and Randy Newman reside next to Big Star and Mink Deville, yet the general theme remains intact as comparatively lesser known selections appear from those artists with both higher and lower profiles.
In observing that premise, then, Tommy Keene sidesteps any hint of academic sterility by choosing songs that resonate personally with him. That, in turn, allows him to do ample justice the tunes he’s picked, such as “I Laugh In Your Face,” and by extension, he pays homage to the artists who originally wrote and recorded them, in this case The Bee Gees. Highlighting a delicate piano, Tommy’s able to capture the atmosphere of the song and its recording, even if the style isn’t directly connected to his own.
In contrast though, Television’s “Guiding Light,” recalls Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd & co, with its layered electric guitars and wan melancholy vocal, yet never sounds merely imitative, precisely because those elements are part of Keene’s own artistic palette.
Throughout Excitement at Your Feet, an astute choice of a title taken from the conclusion of the rock opera Tommy, Keene displays a sure grasp of the nuances of his selections. He and Rob Brill on drums slash and bash their way through The Who’s “Much To Much,” and boogie along in appropriate Chuck Berry-mode on Flaming Groovies “Have You Seen My Baby?” The single cover included here with any mainstream resonance is Donovan’s “Catch The Wind,” the solo acoustic rendition of which becomes an expression of emotional purity.
The concluding cut on Excitement At Your Feet may, in fact, be its most startling. On Roxy Music’s “Out of the Blue,” manages to so wholly and completely capture the ghostly ambience of the cull from the classic Avalon album, it becomes perfectly clear how that song and its recording has inhabited him as a music lover. The expertise with which he’s able to communicate his connection to it is what distinguishes this track and, to only a slightly lesser degree, the others that precede it.