Release Date 30/08/2010 (FatCat Records)
By Chris Gilliver
Two things flashed through my mind shortly after hearing the opening bars (and open chord) of “For Posterity”. First, this is pretentious drivel. Second, I’m going to like Ten Kens. The novelty factor looms large. There simply isn’t anything that sounds like “For Posterity” in its totality. Elements are familiar. There’s the prog-rocky experimentalism of the The Mars Volta, which charges in and out of Harcore. Dan Workman occasionally wails like a Thom York having to adapt his sound to appease an Egyptian pharaoh. Frequently the songs breakdown into a chaos of distorted guitars, crashing drums only to resolve themselves in moments of eerie yet perfectly crafted melody. This juxtaposition serves to make those two barely compatible sounds all the more enjoyable.
I perfectly understand that for many this may sound pretentious, but I get sent so much music by so many bands that I delight in anything that bucks the trend – even better if they smash them to smithereens.
Ten Kens have clearly set out to make something unrecognisable, something that listeners will struggle to identify with. The name “For Posterity” (perhaps jokingly) sets the band up as a Van Gogh creating a work of genius – misunderstood and unappreciated in the band’s lifetime, celebrated after their deaths or demise. They’re in danger of needing to change the name, because Ten Kens could (should!) become very popular in the immediate future.
Strongly reminiscent of Joey Santiago’s work with the Pixies, the chameleonic guitar playing is amazing. Workman will play anything bar the obvious. Hard rock riffs that Josh Homme would be proud of swiftly jump to sparse notes and standard tuning hacks. The moments of clarity and astounding melody on “Screaming Viking” and “Summer Camp” are matched by the atomic roars of “Grassmaster” and “Hard Sell”, while Workman sings like a choir boy possessed with the ghost of Frank Black.
Make no mistake this is a hard listen, but “For Posterity” is a superb album – one that keeps challenging, one that keeps giving, and ultimately one of the best of 2010.