“I have seen the future of rock and roll and it is . . .” goes the famous saying regarding Bruce Springsteen. Well, if the future of rock is in the hands of Ten Benson, then the world will be a much better, louder, and rowdier place. And ugly as sin! Having much more in common with AC/DC than current groups like Nashville Pussy, Ten Benson look like they should be landscaping scam artists more than a rock band—cheap baseball caps, black sleeveless T-shirts, and jeans. But give them a guitar and a minimal amount of lyrics and something magical happens. It’s ZZ Top in bed with the Strokes—infectious hooks with primal leanings. The result is a lovable “Rock” record. Trust me.
With an arrangement that is popular with Canadian Danko Jones and a growing fan base, Ten Benson gets things off to a loud and head-banging start on “Dark Forces”. As lead singer Chris Teckkam sounds like he’s just waking up with a wad of tobacco in his mouth, the sound and groove is instantly created. Backed by guitarists Paul Summers and Johnny Wood, the duo is the second coming of Angus and Malcolm Young. Simple and brilliant all at once, Ten Benson are having fun and it comes through in spades (or given their seedy appearance, shovels). “One Way Ticket” has more of that primal guitar and drum with a stop and start trick that dates back to Chuck Berry. “This is the place where time stands still”, Teckkam sings, and you can’t help but believe.
The eighties-like gallop and cymbal pounding on “Tits” brings to mind Fine Young Cannibals circa “Suspicious Minds”. But the guitar work makes this an instant summer driving tune with the sun shining and the top down. The second half of the song tends to go along but not quite at the same amount of intensity. Thankfully, “The Loozin’ Line” recalls Highway to Hell with Bon Scott being channeled through some nook or cranny. The wails at the end of the track only add to its luster, not exactly screams but not exactly singing either. A heavy alternative rock riff along the lines of the Pixies rears its head on “Rock Cottage”. It begins a bit like the B-52’s “Rock Lobster”, with a minimal riff over simple spoken phrases. “Rock cottage / Hot sausage”, Teckkam utters while the sound of either an aquarium or coffee brewing works behind some whistling. Here, Ten Benson lose some of the plot, but it’s only mere seconds.
“Robot Tourist” is the contemporary equivalent of Styx performing “Mister Roboto”, but with a pulsating backbeat and a rhythm guitar brimming under the surface. A series of synthesizers and keyboards enter into the bridge for a rather bizarre mix. But it does work, which is all that matters. “I never feel like an ordinary automaton”, Teckkam sings with the sincerity of a reject from the motion picture Deliverance. “Sweat Part 2” is more of a dub reggae rhythm mixed with some surf guitar. It’s the first and only instrumental as well. “I Don’t Buy It” is a romping rant at consumer dissatisfaction. Ten Benson here are greater than the sum of its parts on this track for once, with all members having their shining moments. “I don’t bite, I don’t bite”, Teckkam sings. And given his dental appearance, you tend to believe him. Summers and Wood shine here yet again as the song concludes.
The consistency of the music is what makes this a pleasure to listen to. “Nobody’s Wife” is a raunchy banjo-driven Southern track that Les Claypool would drool over. “I might not have a pot in which to piss / But at least I’m nobody’s wife”, is probably the lyrical gem of this album. It’s the lengthy banjo solo which seems a slight interlude from the otherwise rock sound. “Under Heavy Riffage” is a ‘60s murky British blues garage effort, a mishmash that is very alluring at times. “Black Snow” results in a slight disappointment as it follows a path that has been rode down in one or two previous tracks. But thankfully, unlike Andrew WK, the group knows how to carry the tunes for longer than 30 seconds. “Oh General” is the final nail in the coffin, a tame acoustic country dirge that builds into a louder yet melodic anthem. Ten Benson has completed its second album, but the North American debut is first being released this month. But it’s so bloody well worth the wait!
Sci-Fi Author Ursula LeGuin's Stories of Class War, Religious Dissension, Identity Politics and More