With the release of The Big Surprise, Sparrow's The Elms were quickly catapulted into a class of just one as rock's only hope at quality Tom Petty, Beatles, or Oasis counterparts. A true smash, this gave them critical, industrial, and fan appeal alike. Now, these boys from Indiana are testing the waters of something a bit new, at least to them; alternative country.
Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll was a bit of a shocker at first. The initial question that came to mind was why these fellows were diving into new waters when their old waves could have only become bluer with the great serenity that a sophomore album would have hindered. The second question was why I didn't like this as much as I should have, when all this is, is pure quality. Gone are the Brit pop big production days, but emerging are the additions of backing Gospel produced vocals. "Speaking In Tongues" begins with a guitar lick that Thom Daugherty could fashion as Lynard Skynard any day of the week while "You Saved Me" breaks things down with a touching anthem about the group's nearly tragic crash in their van on a recent string of dates, with a rising chorus that truly shines.
"All The While Having Fun" goes back to those Skynard roots while "Burn and Shine" is pop/ rock that could make a break on CCM charts. "The First Day" is true Oasis and a true bringing back of The Elm's old being while "You Got No Room to Talk" adds a gritty appeal with a sense of cock rock that only stellar musicians like The Elms could pull off. "Happiness" begins with a mediocre Beatles rip off but quickly rips through that stereotype with a catchy melody whereas "Come to Me" slows the roll down, a lot, as "Go Toward the Glow" could be mistaken as a quality clone of the country group Nickel Creek. "Let Love In" is the defining point in T, S, R&R, a beautiful ballad on the beautiful love of Jesus where "Through the Night" follows with the Skynard-esque sequence but with a hint of past Elms excellence. "Smile at Life Again" is truly radio friendly and would be a disservice to the world if not the mainstream smash hit that it is.
If you're looking for another Big Surprise, you will definitely receive a shock but nothing like your first listen to that first album in its entirety. What's still here are lead singer Owen Thomas's amazing lyrical imagery and Daugherty's gorgeous solos but gone are the British could be, should be classics. Call me biased, but Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll is no Big Surprise. The ballads have been crafted into something more amazing and worth the buy but missing are the rock hits. Is it their fault that their debut was so good or my fault that I am fickle and like it too much? You'll have to see for yourself, but what I can tell you is that if alt–rock is your bag, these Yankee boys are doing it just fine.- Review date: 10/19/02, written by Blake Garris
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