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The Chess Hotel

The Elms

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Album Review

The Chess Hotel is an album of many firsts for the Elms: it's their first record in four years, the long-awaited sequel to their second album, 2002's Truth, Soul, Rock & Roll; it's their first album for a major label; and it's their first album not to be targeted at a CCM audience. Prior to this record, the Elms were recording for the Christian label Sparrow, but based on the sound of The Chess Hotel, that's a little hard to believe, since it's a loose, rowdy, invigorating set of no-nonsense rock & roll. No other band from the alternative CCM market has ever been this much fun or so genuinely rock & roll. On this terrifically entertaining album, they come across as a blend of the Black Crowes and Oasis, with a little bit of the roots rock of fellow Seymour, IN, native John Mellencamp thrown in for good measure. They love loud guitars, including greasy slide guitars, ragged rhythms, and big, big hooks that are hard to forget, and since it draws clearly and unashamedly on classic rock traditions, whether it's from the U.S. or the U.K., it might seem like it'd be easy to peg the Elms as retro-rock, but they're hardly throwbacks. They might be working within the confines of classic rock, but there's an unstudied nature to their writing and a commitment in their performance that makes The Chess Hotel seem fresh, particularly since there are virtually no straight-ahead, unapologetic rock & roll bands like this in 2006. And that's why The Chess Hotel is one of the best surprises of the year — not only does nobody else sound like this right now, the Elms have the skills as songwriters and musicians to sound exciting. Fans of their first two albums have known this about the band, but those who are reluctant to try the Elms based on their past history should get past their doubts, because this album proves that this quartet is a good rock & roll band by any standard.

Customer Reviews

Best yet out of these guys from Seymour, IN. *****

Well what can I say without trying to sound like a music reviewer (see M.D.'s "article") except this album rocks the rafters here at our place. We've been tracking the progress of this album for quite a while, even had one of our spies over at the studio during some mixing to listen to it and yet the finished CD is awesome. Better than the tracks that lived on MySpace for a while many months back. We've known these guys for about 5 1/2 years, listened to them live, on CD, rode in cars together, prayed for them and their families, all that said: It doesn't matter one bit, this is terrific rock'n'roll. Played hard, sung with passion. Get a copy and enjoy for yourself. I'm 54 years old and grew up with The Who, Stones, Hendrix, etc; and this album fits in with the best of em. It's got all the soul of true rock yet built for the new millenium. Owen's voice and writing, Nate's thunderin' bass/vocals, Chris drumming up a storm as always (watch this guy play live and you'll want to become a drummer. He has so much fun back there!) And Thomas D. on that wailing, fat, sassy lead guitar. Yikes! Dare I go on? Well what can I say without trying to sound like a music reviewer (see M.D.'s "article") except this album rocks the rafters here at our place. We've been tracking the progress of this album for quite a while, even had one of our spies over at the studio during some mixing to listen to it and yet the finished CD is awesome. Better than the tracks that lived on MySpace for a while many months back. We've known these guys for about 5 1/2 years, listened to them live, on CD, rode in cars together, prayed for them and their families, all that said: It doesn't matter one bit, this is terrific rock'n'roll. Played hard, sung with passion. Get a copy and enjoy for yourself. I'm 54 years old and grew up with The Who, Stones, Hendrix, etc; and this album fits in with the best of em. It's got all the soul of true rock yet built for the new millenium. Owen's voice, Nate's thunderin' bass, Chris' drumming up a storm as always (watch this guy play live and you'll want to become a drummer. He has so much fun back there!) And Thomas D. on that wailing, fat, sassy lead guitar. Yikes! Dare I go on? Get it today and watch out! This thing plays over and over around here and just doesn't seem to get old. itzawrap! Go home.

Be prepared for the worst...

...because after you listen to this album, you may have a hard time enjoying anything else. I've been listening to it on repeat now for the last day and a half since I got my hands on it and it still hasn't lost a bit of the edge or the excitement of the first listen. This album shows off the musicianship of The Elms in a way that none of their previous material has been able to do. The Chess Hotel is an album that you'll want your grandkids to listen to when they ask what the best music was from your generation. If you didn't guess it from their first two LP's, The Chess Hotel will certainly convince you that The Elms are here to stay...

If you escape alive, you're doing well...

It's quite difficult to review an album with so much passion and energy squeezed into all of 2,400 seconds. Each song on The Chess Hotel possesses such a unique voice, and beautifully written/performed compositions, that there are hardly highlights on this album. It's entirely first-class. Despite my bias in favor of The Elms’ sound, I am uttering what I believe to be truth. The Chess Hotel is played hard and heavy – while at the same time, resting beautifully, gracefully. The sounds are raw. Nothing you hear is purely a tone of a voice or instrument, it all lies within the nuances of the performance. Screams and thunderous drums rub calluses in your ears in tracks like “I Am The World”, “The Chess Hotel”, and “She’s Cold”. The energy from these darker feeling songs will make your heart pound like no other. The quietude of the gentler songs will then steady your heart far beyond your expectations.….and then, suddenly, a faster paced syncopated drum in tracks like “The Way I Will” will give you the impulse to dance around the room. The performances by the four boys are played as though the world is ending soon, and there are only forty minutes left to save rock & roll. There is a highlight, I would vie - “The Towers and the Trains”. It is the epic concurrence that links the splendor of perfection and the dirtiness of grief. As long as you are patient and listen attentively, you will not be disappointed by the song. Even from a lyrical standpoint, The Chess Hotel is incredibly diverse, discussing: Changing the world, warning the world, helping the girl, falling for the girl, fixing lost love. Defiantly demanding appreciation from those who know how to rock and roll. Giving credit to those who sacrifice by working wholeheartedly. Reflecting on the lost lives of beings of those who truly have lost purpose in their existence. And humbly admitting that taking wealth for granted is sinful. No recordings have ever had such powerful melodies recorded in such a gloriously bare and sparse light. I have never heard an LP that rocked harder, or raised the bar higher, than The Chess Hotel. The sounds derive from the 60's and 70's, but The Elms are definitely not a classic rock impersonators. Trust me, it will brilliantly put rock and roll in your blood. I recommend buying this album as soon as possible. Oh, and turn up your stereo.

Biography

Formed: IA

Genre: Christian & Gospel

Years Active: '00s

In 1996, a couple of brothers from New York, Christopher and Owen Thomas, formed a Christian pop/rock group they named Just Visiting. Owen Thomas did the vocals, guitar, piano, and songwriting while Christopher Thomas added drums, percussion, and vocals. The band's guitar-based sound has been compared to that of groups like the Foo Fighters, Oasis, and even the Beatles. In 1996, Just Visiting decided to turn their music from a pastime into a career. The band began to tour persistently, performing...
Full Bio
The Chess Hotel, The Elms
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