Hardcore isn’t always looking it for it, but it is constantly creating bands that easily could become catalysts for change in the mainstream market. While Nirvana was certainly not a “hardcore” band per say their stolen investments in the punk and hardcore scene was very apparent in their music, and we all know how their existence affected the early ‘90s. At the Drive-in is also another band that can be seen as taking influence from the “hardcore” scene and helping revolutionize a sound that is now just starting to be scene in the “alternative” mainstream. Well, a while back there was this little band called The Vidablue from Iowa. Now, The Vidablue were a pretty standard emotional hardcore band, they were big on the chaos and the beauty, their singer’s cries could only be described as that, and their intense live show sealed the package. The Vidablue soon had to change their name after a bunch of neo-hippie jamsters claimed that had the right to it and so, Ten Grand was formed. While Ten Grand is no longer around due to their lead singer, Matt Davis’ untimely death, I will go ahead and say, if one band was going to bring the genre of true emotional hardcore into the mainstream, Ten Grand would’ve been it. Like At the Drive-in, Ten Grand is heavily invested in the hardcore scene, but their inclusion of a very indieish sound helps them break boundaries into more poppy bits. Maybe, I’ve just been listening to the same type of “emo” for far too long, but Ten Grand were something special, they possessed a pop sensibility that while not evident at first glance, in my opinion would’ve have developed into a musical crutch that helped the band become one of the more successful in their “release and then break-up” genre.
Describing Ten Grand’s sound is basically the typical “emo” sound. Dissonant guitars, throbbing drummers, and a singer that sounds ridiculous, yet their inclusion of back-up singing, post-punk styled guitar lines, and less relationship indulgent lyrics helps them stand out from the other bands in their pack. “Wedding Song For Steve And Andie” may seem like a standard “emo” song but when those background vocal melodies pop in, it feels like it’s become almost indie in it’s sound. When the waves of distortion hit on “Respect Me” it feels like we’ve been transported back into the post-hardcore days of Drive Like Jehu and early Fugazi. What Ten Grand basically does is tackle the genres that have long been associated with hardcore, and implements them in such a way that while not giving their band an “original” sound it certainly makes them seem very fresh. Another emo band they could be compared too, in ethic purely is Circle Takes the Square who’s exploitation of the underlying progressive nature of “emo” has made them scene stars. Lyrically the band seems at times to be very heart felt, and at others very sarcastic. This sense of lyrical content has always been present in “emo” and it helps show the youthful joy that bands like Ten Grand possess, and how it’s possible for them to connect with lyrics reiterating personal tales to hundreds and hundreds of disconnected yet strongly faithful fans. Along with lyrics, Matt Davis was certainly one of the most interesting vocal talents in his genre. His unique high end cry is what helps Ten Grand really stick out from their contemporaries and what made him become such a cherished member of the Mid-Western hardcore scene. The length of “This Is The Way To Rule” (32 minutes) also helps what could be seen as repetitive, become just a great record with songs that share similarities. The best part of the album though is most certainly the final three tracks which are all some of the best that I have heard not only from Ten Grand but from the entire “emo” genre, which is saying a lot because it is probably the genre I feel I listen too the most.
All in all, Ten Grand’s “This Is The Way To Rule” is an album which is a high lister in it’s genre. While it is certainly not perfect, “emo’s” embracement of imperfections really don’t make the slightly off beat, or misplaced guitar lines seem bad, they just make them seem like expressions of emotional release. With “This Is The Way To Rule”, Ten Grand stumbled upon a formula which almost made true emotional hardcore accessible to the masses, and that is essentially why you should get this album. Ten Grand took a genre that is almost as alien too the mainstream as “noise” and made it into something that could be listened too and enjoyed with out a strong love of hardcore or heavy music in general.