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Antietam – Tenth Life (Carrot Top)

Antietam Tenth Life
28 May 2011

Some bands keep such low profile that it’s easy to forget they’re still out there making good music. Kentucky-bred/New York-based Antietam is one example – the trio doesn’t tour all that often and its releases tend to be softballed into the marketplace. That’s a shame, frankly, as there are few rock groups as dependable as Antietam. Unsurprisingly, Tenth Life, its ninth LP, offers ten tracks of good old-fashioned guitar rock – crunchy, loud and tuneful. Leader Tara Key is no axe virtuoso, but she’s definitely got skills, playing in a classic lead/rhythm/riff style that emphasizes melody over flash and impact over awe. Bassist Tim Harris fills in what few holes there are, while drummer Josh Madell simply anchors the string-driven pair with rock-solid rhythm. Performance is only half the story, of course, but fear not – the threesome’s instrumental power (not to mention Key’s husky alto) comes to bear on a strong set of tunes. Beguiling rockers “Kick It Hard,” “Something’s Gonna Give” and “(Keep Me) Satisfied” eschew gimmicks or experimentation and just get down to business, while the slower, more contemplative “Better Man” calmly wrings emotion out of its deliberate progression. The argument could no doubt be made that Antietam isn’t doing here anything it hasn’t done many times over, but screw that notion – by virtue of the band doing what it does best, Tenth Life is extremely satisfying.