The Elms, one of Indiana’s hottest melodic rock bands, are back with their fourth album, “The Great American Midrange”. I have been a big fan of The Elms since I heard their debut EP in 2000, but they worried me a bit with the uneven “Chess Hotel” (their 2006 major label debut). I am happy and relieved to inform you that “The Great American Midrange” is a brilliant return to form.
I thought it would be appropriate to listen to the new record while driving through their hometown of Seymour, Indiana, while on my way to The Horseshoe Casino to play some poker. I don’t think a better soundtrack for such a trip could have been crafted. With titles like “Country Fair” and “Back To Indiana”, and a strong roots rock sound, the record just screams ‘rock from the heartland’. The ballads can make you feel like you’re on your back in a golden field, staring at that big open sky on a lazy afternoon…but without missing a beat they can rock it like a twister. The Elms have attracted some big names to perfect the sonic quality of “The Great American Midrange”: the record was mixed by Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters) and mastered by Bob Ludwig (Rolling Stones, U2, R.E.M., many more).
Owen Thomas sounds as good as ever; his versatile voice gently sways to falsetto and back again on the tender ballads (“A Place in the Sun” and “The Little Ways”), but can rock out with the best of them amongst the crunchy guitars and thumping drums (“Strut” and “Thunderhead”). What I like best is that the boys have returned to the more classic Elms sound, with big hooks and sing-a-long choruses, and they kept their lyrics smart, positive, and inspiring. My favorite song is “Unless God Appears First”, which encapsulates everything I like about this band. There isn’t a dud in the bunch, but the other must hear tunes include “Back To Indiana”, “This Is How The World Will End”, and “The Wildest Heart”.
“The Great American Midrange” is a terrific record – one of my favorite records by the band and one of my favorite records of 2009 so far. You’ll like The Elms if you dig Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Scarecrow”-era John Cougar Mellencamp, or just about any other Midwestern rock outfit.
“The Great American Midrange” drops September 15, but if you pre-order now, you can get an autographed copy, bonus download, and host of other goodies. There is also a very reasonably priced option to get an acoustical interpretation of the album in its entirety.
iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 (including “Lily” bonus track)