Year of Release: 1998
I'm not going to bore you all by beginning yet another blog entry stating that the late nineties were a peculiar time for alternative music, because the fact that Ten Benson were hotly tipped for the top by the NME really should prove that in spades. Of all the skee-wif predictions in a continually surprising world, this had to be one of the biggest ones - at the time of their praise, Ten Benson were a lo-fi recording act who released scuffed-up hillbilly art rock songs about unshakeable supernatural claws (in "The Claw", naturally), the devil ("Evil Heat"), and a lot of other more lyrically impenetrable offerings. As likable as it was, it was surely never going to excite the breakfast show team on Radio One, and so it proved.
Coming across like the more absurd and interesting inbred cousins of Rednex with a cheap home studio, and producing sleeve art that barely merits the use of the word "art" to describe it (why did I bother uploading that picture above? I'm sure I deserve to get those five minutes of my life back) they were deliberately childish, primal, and ridiculous, but produced some of the catchier and more infectious songs of the underground at that time. Indeed, both "Evil Heat" and "The Claw" impressed the late night radio listeners enough to get high up in John Peel's 1998 Festive Fifty, the latter sneering down at the opposition from the number 4 slot. It's a marvel, and deserved the attention, sounding so much like the early 1950s shock singles that plagued the American market that it could be slapped on a playlist next to them and not lose any impact. This and "Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus come from the same ludicrous mindset.
"6 Fingers of Benson" is merely a compilation of their first three singles A and B sides. After this point, they began spoofing Heavy Metal with songs such as "Teenage Tits", and became ironically rockist and matey with The Darkness, but (in my opinion) lost a lot of their oddness and charm in the process. That said, later track "Rock Cottage" (from their first LP proper, "Hiss") with its harmonies of "uhmmmm.... hot sausage" probably does deserve to be heard.
The band split last year with a final gig in London, remaining very much a cult wonder, which may have surprised the odd NME journalist out there, but didn't particularly surprise me, however much I might have wanted "The Claw" to be issued on a major label and become a surprise smash in the process.
1. Evil Heat
2. Bardot Style
3. The Claw
4. Transport Overseas
5. Uncle Benson
6. City Hoppers
And click here if you're curious and urgently need to see the video to "Teenage Tits" (that's my webstats through the roof for the next month at least, I'll warrant).