Tens are a Chicago punk band featuring three dudes who like punk rock and beer a lot. Good start: they’ve already got two things in common with a lot of the people reading this review.
Chances are that, on listening to their demo, you’ll find a few more things in common as well. Their warm, Fest-friendly sound is Jawbreaker through and through. You’re thinking, “There’s a description I’ve heard before”, and you’d be right, but when it’s done well, it’s pretty difficult not to like.
Tens have got the credentials to pull off a tried and tested style without sounding old hat. The demo itself is unpolished and raw, which would be to the detriment of some, but when you lay down something as tight and confident as this, the lack of fiddling and editing fuels confidence in the band.
The demo kicks off with the upbeat ‘Countersuit’, where the band state their position firmly, bellowing, “I find solace in the simple things!” Like the Lawrence Arms, they don’t let the lack of a second guitar take any depth from their sound, switching effectively between pounding power chords and flowing guitar/bass lead.
Middle track ‘Finish Where We Started’ is as Blake Schwarzenbach as it gets. It’s thoroughly introspective, as with cracked vocals they exhale, “So I’ll drink myself to death, wells gone dry there’s nothing left”. This in itself feels like a nod to Jawbreaker’s ‘Accident Prone’: “I cut in line I bled to death, I got to you there was nothing left”.
Final effort ‘Sawyer’s Gate’ is the strongest of three solid tracks. It has one of those openings people go to gigs to sing along to, and keeps the momentum flying with swooping basslines and intelligent drumming. Tens really are a band that play simple music but very much know how to use their instruments.
I loved this demo. It could easily be dismissed as standard Fest fodder, and perhaps not unfairly. But as much as it’s important to push punk rock forwards, it’s almost just as essential that new bands are emerging who are getting the basics right, and Tens are absolutely in their element.