Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ten Grand - This Is the Way to Rule (2003)

I was lucky to find this one for only £3 a couple of months back - thank God for Anarchy Records. Once upon a time there was an awesome midwest emo band called The Vidablue who, at some stage in their career, got approached by some douche from Phish who desperately wanted to nick their name. And so The Vidablue became Ten Grand - allegedly an allusion to the sum that they were paid by said hippy to change their name - and went on to make even more badass music that those jam-band wannabes could only dream of creating. Ten Grand are an emo band in the original sense, but their heavy post-punk influence sets them apart from their peers and gives them a much more diverse appeal, making them a good starting point in the genre for fans of indie-rock and post-hardcore. The racket they make is tight and explosive, filled with satisfying post-hardcore riffing and instrumental grooves, fronted by a singer who has a pretty unique and unhinged style that works perfectly with the music.

The urgency of Ten Grand's music is immediately obvious from the opening song 'Hands Off the Merch'. The first minute builds up tension brilliantly, the initial burst of chiming guitars giving away to the continuous thumping of a bass drum - until finally the drums hit their stride and the song explodes into action, vocalist Matt Davis shakily proclaiming "Who's a wreck? I'm a wreck." Then after just two intense minutes it's over, but the rest of the album doesn't lapse in quality for a second. Touches of backup melody in songs like 'Wedding Song for Steve and Angie' and 'Now You Got What I Got' add an interesting dynamic to the record, making it seem much less obviously emo and potentially more approachable for those who aren't necessarily familiar with the genre. 'Fuck You Guyses Teams', one of the record's highlights, has a really tight groove to it that is surprisingly catchy, to the extent that to my ears it could almost be a Bloc Party song. The band has a great ear for dynamics, often bursting from a steady groove into a more intense one to keep the listener hooked. 'This Isn't Heaven, This Sucks' is a perfect example of a song that, while lacking a refrain, manages to be consistently gripping through the explosive riffing and the rapid but fluid changes between sections, building in tension towards a climax at the end of the song. 'Get Out of My Dojo' includes a steadily building rhythmic assault that shows the band's taut interplay at its best, recalling the progressive leanings of other emo bands like Gospel and Kidcrash. Ten Grand specialise in songwriting over experimentalism, though, and this much is evident in the frankly amazing album closer 'Now You Got What I Got'. Fulfilling the "emotional" part of "emotional hardcore" by all means, it tumbles chaotically towards an intense and emotionally exhausting coda, wringing as much feeling as possible out of the song through the soaring tremolo guitars and Davis' ambiguous but nevertheless very affecting repetition of "it's like an accident that we keep on knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting" until the song collapses in on itself.

Never has an album title been more accurate. It should go without saying how tragic it is that Matt Davis passed away following the release of this album, especially as the band could have potentially been very big news indeed had they carried on down the same path. As it is, we're left with this brilliant Southern Records-released memento of one of the best emo/post-hardcore/whatever bands ever to exist. If anyone ever knew the way to rule, it was Ten Grand.

$i feel like a veteran$ i forgot how to leave. $i feel like j. gosh$ i will not go back to school, $i i feel just like bill buckner$ i forgot i need it, $and everyone that you forgot$ i forgot how to need it. for all the time i keep waiting, the times you kept saying go, you're done twisting arms. backed up and down, a new ratio, for who's laughing now, who's winning now? i hide my jokes inside the kitchen broom so you can start practicing for the rest of your life, they wrote you in to stay down, we mean it, stay down, you can't move, the wait is so hard, but you blew it all.
i recall saying you'll never forget this again for the rest of your life. $what's the word on the street?$
somehow i recall...
$it's probably nothing, baby$
i'll never have the time to explain, i don't think i'll find the time to explain, i know i won't ever want to have to explain, let's give up on verbs and nouns, because sometimes you mean it, but everybody's got too many words, and sometimes you mean it but everybody's got too many words, just shut up once for me, please shut up once for me, just shut up once for me, just shut up for once in your life, while they were talking to you, i kept on driving in and ran down every thought, who's waiting now, you've got to dig yourself out, you have to dig yourself out, you have to dig yourself out.

-Ten Grand; 'This Isn't Heaven, This Sucks'

Ten Grand - This Is the Way to Rule

(Check out how good they were live!)

Ten Grand

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