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Following in the long tradition of Beatles/Big Star–influenced pop singers who will always be in style but never in vogue, Tommy Keene has fashioned commercial invisibility into a sort of profession. Since Keene started recording in the early ’80s, he has been associated with nine different record labels and has probably never played to more than a hundred of his own fans at once. It would seem appropriate for the title of Keene’s latest, Ten Years After, to signify a bitter look back at the career that wasn’t: After all, it’s been a decade since his major-label debut sparked Paul Westerberg comparisons—and Songs From the Film remains Keene’s closest brush with fame. Instead, Ten Years After finds Keene fulfilling the romantic bard’s duty to toy with emotional calamity; the result is a series of dispatches on the skimpy rewards of rekindling a relationship that was doomed from the get-go. “Going Out Again” is the concept’s manifesto, a contagious fit of denial in which Keene rationalizes his romantic action as a means to get out of the house. From there, Keene frames his tales of shitty love (“Turning on Blue,” “On the Runway,” “Good Thing Going”) with picture-perfect hooks and cool shivers of guitar, wisely diverting attention back to the craft that’s made his obscurity seem like such a waste. If Lou Barlow made a record this inspired by the fatigue of living, it would have all the cheer of a suicide note. Consider it a sign of Keene’s uncommon maturity that Ten Years After is more than fit to play in the car. CP