Ten Foot Pole Puts Out Solid 10th Album with Winning

 

4.7 out of 5 stars

The new album Winning from the California punk band Ten Foot Pole is one that has more than just a few “good songs” on it. In fact, the entire album is quite good, in my opinion.

For those of you who are wondering, yes, this is the same Ten Foot Pole band that has been around since the early 1990’s, BUT it is definitely not the same lineup.

A quick refresher, the original singer was Scott Radinksy who left the band (or was forced to leave, whichever you prefer) because he was a professional baseball player at the time. Well, Radinsky then went off and started the punk group Pulley.

The new singer Dennis Jagard took over, and since then (around 1995 from what I can gather), the band members have changed extensively with Jagard being the only current member who is left from the early days.

Okay, so now that we got that sorted, the music is still really good. It’s partly political, partly social, partly personal, and overall has the same feel of a good punk album that you would remember from any time in your past.

But let me stop there, because I just want to point out that even though I often compare punk bands to the sounds of the 90’s, I don’t want to lead anyone to assume that I mean those years had the best punk music. I just mean that MOST other people will likely have stopped listening to punk music after it stopped getting mainstream attention. Not true fans, of course, but the vast majority of people will have quit hearing new punk music as soon as it became hard to follow along without widespread attention.

So, just like many punk bands in the last 20 years or so, Ten Foot Pole really hasn’t been as active or as noticed as they were in the 90’s. There were a couple of hiatuses, and several reformations.

This new lineup took hold around 2019, and since getting back into the swing of things, the band has released their second album in about 2.5 years with the last one being Escalating Quickly which came out in May of 2019.

NOTE: They did release another album with other members in 2017, but those songs were mostly reissues of older songs for an album appropriately titled Setlist.

Right from the start of Winning, you get the feeling that the band just “gets it” when it comes to making great punk music.

Can We Stop Trying To Win?” is an anthemic call to the country to stop making politics a sports competition, and instead start looking at how to create solutions to problems and be good to each other. One of the most noble-minded songs I have heard recently, and exactly what I always think about when I ponder politics for any meaningful amount of time.

The next track “Bogeyman” is a bit of a personal reflection song set to a fast tempo about how the REAL bogeyman is yourself because the mind can play tricks on you or even just create an entire “reality” that is totally built up from fear and paranoia.

One of my favorite lines comes from this song:

“My bogeyman is not a villain creeping ‘round my home
My bogeyman is not an agent spying through my phone
He’s lurking in my mind, he can surface anytime”

The one weird thing I will say about some comparisons I draw when I listen to Ten Foot Pole is like a mix of Pennywise (especially the song “Date With Destiny”) and a bit of Weird Al Yankovic. I think Jagard just has that little hint of Weird Al in his voice that throws me off a bit. The bad thing about me saying that is that you may never hear Jagard’s voice the same way again.  

The next track is “I’m No Good At Sharing,” and if you just looked at the title, it would seem a bit selfish, but really this is a love song about how Jagard sings that he isn’t good at sharing his partner’s love and attention. While this is a bit of an antiquated idea that someone “shares” another person, the feeling on this one is that it seems more about trying to reconcile jealousy than it is about controlling the other person.

Take Back Your Voice” is another political saga about trying to give power back to the people instead of being manipulated by Congress and the media. Another great line comes from this song:

“You have a choice
To stop reacting to
The outrageous crap that they say and they do 
As they try to manipulate you”

There are 13 songs on this album, and I won’t cover every single one, but suffice it to say, there are so many good ones on here that it is well worth your time to spend the 38 minutes it takes to get through the album.

Some of my other favorites on the album include, “Maybe These Are The Good Old Days” for its melodies and variation, “F Around and Find Out” for its in-your-face lyrics, and “Silence Is My Enemy” which is just a really good song.

I won’t say every song is equally good or anything as everyone who listens will have different favorites, but I think anyone who likes punk music, especially skate punk, will enjoy at least 3 or 4 songs on this album if not the whole thing.