t’s a testament to the worth of a band when they can take a simple formula, twist and bend it dozens of times over, and (almost) always make it sound brand new. This is the first thing that came to mind when I listened to “Fuck You Guyses Teams”, the ninth track on Ten Grand’s first album for Southern Records. The dueling dissonance of the guitars, the heavier-than-anything drums, Matt Davis’s thin, panting vocals, this was all held over from their last record, the equally, if not more, stunning The Comprehensive List of Everyone Who Has Ever Done Anything Wrong To Us. But when drummer Bob Adams laid into those surly, jagged beats and the twine-y guitars spiraled up into an abrupt stop, it felt like something in-between a revelation and the catchiest racket of the year.
Hailing from Iowa City, Ten Grand is well-steeped in the vague history of Midwest hardcore-- echoes of mid-90s groups like Gauge and Chisel Drill Hammer wind visibly through their DNA at times-- but they have the good sense not to appropriate it. Their shrill guitar provocations and braying vocals hint at a target that far surpasses anything so conventional. Ten Grand’s is an alarming sound, elevating the descriptor ‘unnerving’ to new heights. Taking cues from the best sledge bands, their rhythm section swings like a trillion-pound pendulum, minimal but unerringly thunderous. The rest of the line-up plays at an entirely different end of the spectrum, with sharply cutting guitars slicing furiously through the low-end mire, the whole jittery mix presided over by Davis’ trembling yelp. It’s surely not for everyone, but Ten Grand comes as close to universal appeal as they ever will on This Is The Way To Rule, which finds their temperamental take on hardcore, metal, and noise stretched to its catchiest, yet most boundless, form yet.
Although, as evidenced by the captivating seven-minute closer “Now You Got What I Got”, Ten Grand is more than capable of expanding the scope of their music to maintain studious interest in long spells of half-melodies and strident cymbal washes, the songs are kept feverishly short here, which only strengthens the insistency of their blow. “Get Out of My Dojo” and “I Will Seriously Pay You To Shut Up”, the former boasting a fist-pumping telegraphed guitar breakdown that opens the gates to a booming flood of squeals and crackling snare thuds, comprise, along with “Hands Off The Merch”, the ravaging center of the record. From there on out, the remainder of the album adheres almost unfailingly to the core basis of these songs while offering welcome expansions, all the while separating itself from the glut of its peers through the sheer joy the band finds in unfurling their music-- “Wedding Song For Steve and Angie”’s dueling vocals would surely smack of pretension if it didn’t rock so freely.
The music here is certainly exciting, but its exhilaration does a lot to mask the core similitude of these songs. But, as this is their debut on the illustrious, somewhat wealthy, and well-distributed Southern, I’m taking This Is The Way To Rule as a launch pad or catalyst for the rapid musical growth of the band. Both onstage and off, their music sways dangerously and joyously close to utter collapse, and does so better than most any band today. This record sees them approaching a coagulation of their hazardous elements, and when they get there, it’s sure to explode in every direction.
Reviewed by: Colin McElligatt
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01