Sloan – [Album]

Thursday, 05 May 2011

Few (if any) Canadian music business success stories have proven to be so personally gratifying to fans as Sloan's has been. In the last twenty years, Sloan has crawled out of obscurity, risen to a celebrated place in the alt-rock community (the members of Nirvana sang the band's praises), survived that scene's implosion unscathed and gone on to occupy an almost charmed standing; free of tastemaker criticism. Because of the combination of Sloan's tenure in the business and standing, they're now in a position where they're able to do exactly whatever they please – and it's very telling of the bandmembers' character that their first order of business now that they're back on an indie label (in Canada, was signed to Sony Music until recently) has been to relax a bit and say thank you to fans by recapturing some roots on The Double Cross.

From the moment “Follow The Leader” rolls out to open the record, long-time fans will be thrilled to learn that Sloan has reverted to the early, poppier songwriting and production styles that initially won fans over on albums like Smeared, Twice Removed and One Chord To Another. The bombastic rock n' roll histrionics that began on Navy Blues and carried all the way through Parallel Play have been abandoned and, in their place, the band has seemed to re-discover the simple joys of modestly produced indie rock. No matter whether longtime fans were happy with the rockier side of Sloan or not, they'll still find themselves heaving a heavy sigh sigh of pleasure; while the directions they'd taken over the years were all fine and good, “Follow The Leader” feels like an instant homecoming – and it's just great.

The hits keep on coming after “Follow The Leader” as songs like “The Answer Was You,” “Unkind,” “She's Slowing Down Again” and “I've Gotta Know” fly out fast and furiously with all the potency of Sloan's early albums but, like on those early albums, the band also includes other sounds and structures into the mix as well (some fine ballads in “Green Gardens, Cold Montreal” and “Laying So Low,” near-to rockabilly on “Shadow Of Love,” a punk-ish rave-up in the form of “It's Plain To See” and some flat-out disco on “Your Daddy Will Do” and “Beverly Terrace”) for a bit more color. As an assembled album, the combination of all of this is really exciting and further fuels the impression left that The Double Cross is something of a return to Sloan's old way of doing things – where they'd throw everything against the wall to see what sticks – before the band decided it wanted to break into the American market and really focused its energy on making rock records. Having relaxed that desire, Sloan has inadvertently made something fans will treasure on The Double Cross; here, Sloan has stayed true to themselves and made a mature masterpiece.



Sloan – "Follow The Leader" – The Double Cross


The Double Cross
comes out on May 10, 2011. Pre-order it here on Amazon .


Sloan – [Album]

Saturday, 07 June 2008

Who would have thought that going home again would be the catalyst that Sloan needed to experience a rebirth? Having recently resurrected their own label, Murderecords, and rejoined its roster for the first time in sixteen years, Sloan established carte blanche for themselves to follow up 30-track monster Never Hear The End Of It from 2006. Rather than attempting to go even bigger though, for their first album back the band chose to cut Parallel Play in their Toronto rehearsal space and produce most of it themselves.

Wait a minute—self-recorded, self-produced and (largely, though Sony BMG is handling the distribution side) self-released? Sounds like Sloan, widely regarded as one of the longest standing and most successful of their breed in Canada, is an indie band again!

Right from the start, the change of environments manifests in the rocking but sweet-as-honey opener, “Believe In Me.” On that song (and this is a theme that carries universally through the rest of the album as well), Sloan reverts to the rhythmically charged writing that long-time fans fell in love with on Smeared and One Chord To Another. Gone are the monster riffs that characterized Navy Blues and Between The Bridges and, in their place, underground-informed modesty that the band showcased on its early albums reasserts itself in earnest. The band tightens up the arrangements and jettisons the big riffs to let the writing stand on its own again with fantastic results. Songs like “All I Am Is All You’re Not,” “Burn For It,” “Witch’s Wand” and “Too Many” reclaim the off-beat modesty, the neo-Beatles vocal harmonies and the sweetness that Sloan made hay with in its early career but, even so, it isn’t as if the band members are trying to ignore the fact that they’ve been in a band together for seventeen years. The recurring themes of age and the wisdom that comes with it as well as the writing routines that develop in a band after so many years (the refrain in “Too Many” is simply “I’m not a kid anymore”) dominate the lyrics of Parallel Play.

It isn’t as if this record is a plain-faced departure by the band from all things Sloan but, with Parallel Play, they've recaptured some things that have been long missing from a Sloan album: adventure, a cute sort of impetuousness and goofy fun. The band realized that the competent professionalism they’ve been treading water with for the last four records wouldn’t sustain them forever. Sloan needed to take a risk. Parallel Play is that gambit and it proves itself to be a brilliant leap of faith rather than a tragic jump of stupid.

Parallel Play is out June 10th. Buy it on Amazon.

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