Ten City Nation – At the Still Point
by Andy Johnson

I like Ten City Nation. Obviously that has something to do with their music, but it’s also helped by the fact that up until now they’ve given it all away, which has always been a pretty effective means to try to win me over. I originally discovered them through REPEAT Records, a small label attached to a “Manic Street Preachers-inspired mini zine”. Ten City Nation’s self-titled debut album, the single “Exhibition Time Again” and a small selection of live tracks all got a listen from me because of that alluring freeness, and their music has proved entertaining enough in the past for me to quickly decide to investigate further once I realised that this second album, At the Still Point, was on the way.
If Ten City Nation was an album of scuzzy, lo-fi, abrasive garage rock, then At the Still Point is… an album of scuzzy, lo-fi, abrasive garage rock. Admittedly there are a few more quieter songs here, more guitars that are trying to sound like guitars than chainsaws, but generally this is still a sledgehammer-subtle riff assault that hasn’t moved on a huge amount from the band’s previous work. These recordings still sound crude, but that has the effect that this album is a document of a rock band rather than the sanitized studio product that most albums are by comparison. Things have moved on a little though – besides those quieter songs like “Take Me Down” and “Ten Years Older” there is an almost elegant segue between two of the songs early on the album, and among other small advancements, the backing vocals have improved a bit from their sometimes cringeworthy nature on the first record.

What Ten City Nation have going for them here is that they play solid songs in a raw, earnest way. They’re not driving their genre forwards leaps and bounds, but as their guitars growl and as their singer vocalizes slightly amatuerishly over them, there’s something involving and grimly inviting about everything they do. It’s helped by that warm, crude recording and production, too. Yes, “A Butcher in Silks” may be driven by an almost worryingly familiar riff (is it just like a Nirvana one, I ask myself…) but it’s never to the detrimental to the song. The best moments come quite frequently, from the gripping instrumental climax of “Silent Disco” to the confident swagger and blistering finale of “Battle Lost Battle Found”. Gradually developing, Ten City Nation are an uncommonly naturalistic and gritty band in this day and age and freeness or no freeness, are well worth a listen.

By Andy Johnson on The Line of Best Fit

Buy At The Still Point here