Reviewed by Michael Bertin, Fri., Jan. 25, 2002
Ten SpeedBig Mono (ATP) "My grandfather was a very good catch." Most folks love their grandparents, sure, but it's safe to say most people probably don't think of them in those terms. Unfortunately, "Grandma," the lead off track from Ten Speed's Big Mono is cornier -- as in Norman Rockwell corny -- than it is strange or questionable. That's also an apt assessment of the Austin quartet's latest: good-natured, with further homages to Jesus and Frida Kahlo among others, if not a little off-kilter. Musically, it's more countrified than its predecessor, The Beanhouse, with only a couple of exceptions ("The Uglies," "Watching My Garden Die") owing more to pure pop-rock inspiration than roots music. Nevertheless, Big Mono is more rural than anything else; it's hard to do a song about having bread bags on your feet ("Bread Bags") and not sound a little hillbilly. Think the Gourds for geezers or the Meat Purveyors after rehab. The problem is that Big Mono ain't as piquant as either of those local touchstones. That's no sin, but a little iniquity would probably do this record a lot of good.