Ten Kens - Ten Kens

Ed James 18/09/2008

Rating: 2/5

Ken Dodd. Ken Livingstone. Ken Loach. Ken Barlow (if he wasn't fictional.) Ken Hom. Backed by five guys named Ken, this potential super group would promise more excitement than Ten Kens, the eponymous debut album by four chaps from Toronto.

This isn't a damning criticism in itself. Ten Kens make a din that recalls the Arcade Fire minus strings and anthems and it chugs earnestly and inoffensively for the duration. One can imagine them glowering as they play I Really Hope You Get to Retire, the album's finale, an extended jam full of echoing crash cymbals and directionless guitar chords that ends before it reaches the apex you anticipate.

Worthless and Over-Simplified Ideas measures up to the bluntness of its title, with its mish-mash of siren-like effects pedals and brattishly ubiquitous “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da” vocal fills. Musically speaking, it needs a good wash.

Ten Kens would benefit from working with a slightly broader emotional palette and a clearer sense of direction. Emotionally, most of these songs convey disgruntlement and little else, emphasised by the aptly named Dan Workman's laboured wailing that starts to grate about three songs in. Call me a geriatric, but I'd like to be able to hear the words more distinctly.

Like eleven neutered bulls, these songs may appear menacing at a glance but are utterly harmless. There's no wit, little variety but plenty of reverb so that the casual listener might not notice. Ten Kens seem to be relishing this chance to share their imprecise dissatisfactions with the world but don't seem to have a great deal to say for themselves that hasn't been said innumerable times already in alternative circles.