Review Summary: Too much throwing at walls, and not quite enough sticking.
10 Years are a “gateway” type of band. Their ability to take the modern rock style of their contemporaries and shift it to something that is something genuinely more than radio rock has been impressive. With their major label debut The Autumn Effect, and its follow-up Division, they showed how the music could be singles for the radio while still forming a cohesive, artful album for the more critical listener. Then with 2010’s Feeding the Wolves, we saw 10 Year’s come back to the pack a bit. The album did just as its title indicated, gave the record exec’s something to sell. This was a disappointment to many of the fans 10 Years had presented any sort of “gateway” to, and in fact, was a disappointment to the band itself. Thus, we were given a 2012’s aptly titled Minus the Machine, and attempt to bring back the things that made 10 Years special in the past.
It should be noted that this is an independent release by the band. And it’s almost too obvious. It’s apparent that the band themselves are not use to having this type of creative freedom. The amount of ideas swirling around within this albums 44 minute runtime is impressive. The problem however, is the lack of precision that this leads to within the songwriting department. The album opens with the hard hitting “Minus the Machine” and “Battle Lust”, both of which are clear attempts to say, “Hey, we can rock super hard when no one is holding us back!” to their fans. Of course this backfires a bit, as the songs end up being just that, heaviness for the sake of heaviness.
Next up, we have “Forever Fields”, which isn’t a bad track per se, if nothing but for the reason that it is a clear attempt to bring back that famous 10 Years’ atmosphere back into the fray. And it’s a welcome sound to be sure. The problem lies in the fact that the song turns out to be pretty much entirely atmosphere, and no real substance. Yet, it’s not until we reach the end of this song and it becomes clear what the album is really missing, something this band has spoiled us into expecting from every release, and that’s a sense of cohesiveness from start to finish.
The rest of the album is considerably more finely tuned from a songwriting perspective. The songs become less of a reminder of what’s possible, to actually using these possibilities to form more solid songs. From the haunting finger-picking of “Writing on the Walls” to the impressive bass line leading the way in “Soma”, we see that the potential is clearly still there for 10 Years. And, with the exception of the momentum killing chorus of “Knives”, it all works on an individual song basis. It seems that this album was a necessary stepping stone to get away from the vices of the mainstream rock world, and move towards the realm where 10 Years is the most comfortable. It just so happens that they weren’t fully ready for this new found freedom, and, like a kid let loose in a toy store, just couldn’t keep their hands off of absolutely everything.
Best review so far and I agree with pretty much most you say although the album did more for me than you apparently. Completely and totally agree about the gateway band thing. TAE opened the doors for me to start listening to most of my favorite bands today.
I literally just found out this was getting released a few days before it came out. I'm thinking to it got little to no publicity, and the fact that this was an independent release and that they are no longer with that HUGE label that signed all those other post-grunge bands didn't help at all.