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Pick of the Month October 2002

Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll
Artist: The Elms
Label: Sparrow Records
Time: 12 tracks / 52:20

The Elmsí first album, 2001ís Big Surprise, split critics into two camps. Some hailed it as a glorious throwback to the British pop of the sixties, while others, most notably HM, condemned it as an overproduced, slick pop record that refused to be daring.

Apparently some of the criticism hit home, for the press materials on the Elmsí new album, Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll, use phrases like "searing guitars," "equal parts sweat and raw power," and "loud, raw, and honest." Evocative description, yes, but the payoff just isn't there. As a whole, it seems more like a sequel to Big Surprise than any sort of new sound.

Opener "Speaking In Tongues" had me hooked, though. The space of the first verse and chorus alone recall recent Ghoti Hook, The English Beat, and Third Day. In fact, the verses sound like they were lifted directly
from The English Beatís "Mirror In The Bathroom." "All The While Having Fun" and "You Got No Room To Talk" feature some straight-ahead guitar playing, "Go Toward The Glow" is a jangly little number that wears its Beatles influence on its sleeve. "Through The Night" boasts a chorus thatís one of the best on the album.

However, thereís also a downside to Rock & Roll. "You Saved Me," "Come To Me," and "Burn & Shine" all sound like they came directly from Big Surprise and add nothing to the record. For an album with "Rock & Roll" in the title, there is very little rock to be found. 

Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll does show an improvement over the bandís debut, as they mix in some new influences and put more emphasis on the guitars. The Elms are a good band, and Brent Milliganís slick,
CCM-friendly production canít hide that. If the band was on an indie label, I think they could put out a great record. Taken on its own merits, itís not a bad album. But Sparrow tries to market it as a gritty rock record, and thatís not even close.

John Wilson 9/12/02

Sparrow Recordís rock group The Elms have returned for round two in their musical career. While itís avowedly an interesting diversion, some might have a hard time converting over from their old sound to the new. 

Yes, theyíve changed their sound. And as soon as you pop the album into your player you will notice the change when the first track ("Speaking In Tongues") commences. Sure, there are traces of the Big Surprise here and there such as in the ballads, but for the most part it seems like a departure.

While it does have its somewhat-addicting tracks such as "Speaking In Tongues," "Burn & Shine," and "You Got No Room To Talk," some of the tracks (IE: A few ballads) tone the  ďrockĒ sound that the album is supposed to have right down so it is not heard. At times you may even feel like skipping a couple of tracks, which is a rather unfortunate thing.

Lyrically The Elms have done a good job here for the most part. Sometimes it can be thought provoking while other times itís not too deep. The one track that Iím rather disappointed with lyrically is ďAll The While Having Fun!Ē though, as it only showcases five lines worth of lyrics which just repeats. The sound is good, but lyrically it just has a bit of an indolent look. Not a huge deal though.

Overall, the album is fairly enjoyable, but I canít really see it having a permanent spot in my CD player anytime soon. If you are a fan of The Elms, I imagine you could probably just go and buy this one. But otherwise, only check the album out first, as this is definitely one thatís not for everybody. 

Josh McConnell  10/27/02


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