Several arguments can be made about the creation of challenging music. On one hand, it can be said that those from a creative climate will inherit such a tendency, bringing about their own take on the surrounding environs. It also can be said that boredom begets creation, such as the boy or girl living in a small town who attacks Middle American ennui with musical output instead of a drug habit.
Somehow neither of these conclusions are sufficient to explain the unsanctimonious and downright passionate energy emanating from Ten Grand’s new album, This Is The Way To Rule. Iowa is not a hotbed of musical activity, like its neighbor Nebraska (Slipknot excluded, or totally disregarded), but neither is it the epitomy of boredom. But certain bands come together at the right time and the right place to create a sound that is synonymous with their surroundings and perfect for the time they live in. With This is the Way to Rule, Ten Grand did just that.
Album opener “Hands Off The Merch” weighs in on life in the Midwest while exhibiting another characteristic of the band, their knack at having fun with titles (see past efforts “Never Let Your Girlfriend Go Camping With That Guy She Met In Pottery Class – Trust Me” and “The Face I Make While You Are Crying…”). The first few bars of kick drum leads into a hailstorm of musical dynamics that complement lead singer Matt Davis’ “heart on his sleeve” vocals.
The group never comes off as cheeky, but there is a definite underlying sarcasm to their lyrics. Davis’ vocals are heartfelt and at times, sinister, but he never overdoes it. The rhythms work right into the melodies and vice versa, creating an interlocked sound that can stand the test of multiple listens.
“Wedding Song For Steve and Angie” highlights another side of the band, bringing their math rock-tendencies out of the woodwork. While the anger and passion is still there, everything is slowed down for a closer inspection, indicating a band that can hit a home run on any number of levels.
Even though the band has changed their name (they were formerly known as The Vidablue), they haven’t changed much of anything else. They have grown closer as a unit and more accomplished as individual musicians, and because of that, they have left an indelible mark on the indie world. The reaction to their environment has been a positive one, as their challenging music reaches the Midwest and beyond.