Lucas B. Smith (guitars/vocals) and Billy Coats (drums) are the Omaha, Nebraska-based duo I Hear Thud. They play, as they call it, “prairie rock” or “sensible Midwest desert rock.” The group’s Great Plain release is a concept album that explores Midwestern life from teenage through post-school years.
Let’s state this up front: Smith and Coats amaze with their ability to communicate the emotional arc of the story through music. And Great Plain is mostly music, as just two of the eight cuts feature vocals. The heavy lifting is done by the instruments, not the lyrics. This is a tall order, but they’ve succeeded. Furthermore, they’ve done it as a guitar-and-drums two-piece. There are some overdubs here and there, but Great Plain gives the sense that the live rendition wouldn’t be terribly different from what you hear on the record. Through the shifting feels and guitar tones, I Hear Thud puts you right in the story as it’s unfolding.
The music gives an undercurrent that reminds the listener of the sameness of the Nebraska landscape. Similar themes and riff shapes weave in and out of the various tracks; the band does a nice job with subtle variations, keeping up interest. They’ve also included environmental sounds between cuts, helping to frame the next song and advance the story. It’s a well-conceived, cohesive piece of work.
The opener “Smooth Cannon” is an instrumental that conveys a feel of desolation with its deep, heavy, groovy riff. There’s nice interplay between the drums and the guitar. The mood picks up with “Med Lee” as we drive down the highway to the fireworks displays of “Inside Outside.” The bluesy title track puts us back on the highway, but without the optimism of the earlier ride. It’s darker and confused, even a little angry.
We work through the anger over the next two tracks. “Falcon Heavy” features a nice switch between a heavy, modal main riff and a fuzzy pentatonic middle section. A tractor engine starts on “Worship”; our Nebraskans could probably tell us the make and model just from the sound. The lyrics intone, “every day, the same old mundane” and the music gives exactly that feel. Great Plain finishes on a happier note though with “Nimbostramus” and the prairie wind blowing through a set of chimes.
I Hear Thud has delivered a wonderful set with Great Plain. You get to experience midwest life through the comfort of your own headphones. Enjoy a spin!
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