Friday, May 20, 2011



Sloan makes music for those of us who love rock, love pop, and love to be surprised. In many ways, they come close to being the perfect band. I think I'll list some. Some, if not all of them, are music nerds, just like me (we? us?). They are a true partnership, with all four of them fine songwriters and craftsmen. If they wanted, each could do their own solo albums. But they never have. They have kept the band together under occasional duress. They have always been hip, and indie, even when they were on a major label. They had pretty big hits, but not big enough to take away their fan-friendly accessability. They have never made an embarrassing album, and I can't think of one that isn't good-bordering on classic. They never disappoint. They seemingly do not age, although we know they have been doing this for 20 years.

We know about the 20 thing, because they are currently shamlessly celebrating the anniversary with this new album and a tour. The double cross, get it? Two crosses, two XX's, Roman Numerals for 20. The group is facebooking and websiting like crazy, showing famous fan tribute videos, blogging and tweeting, getting everybody all worked up. And since they are beloved, nobody is accusing them of hype. We know they won't be getting rich anyway, they only want to keep making music and a decent living, and keep the party and friendship going.

So, you are therefore obliged to do your part, by attending the big summer tour where possible, or checking out the new disc. Back to that comment I made about Sloan making music for those of us who love to be surprised. It seems the guys just can't leave a song alone these days, without throwing a curve ball at you. The Double Cross is full of them, right from the first track, Follow The Leader. Just as you're following along and expecting this thing to wind its way to the end in the usual verse-chorus-bridge-fade patterns, it goes into a completely different motive, really a different song, but linked to the first.  Then, continuing the Abbey Road-ish medley trick the band has been doing at various points over the past few albums, the songs makes a smooth transition into the next number, and there's another seamless transition into the next. This gives the disc a faster pace, a cohesive flow, the sense that this isn't just a collection of tracks from four guys, that it's thought out and perfected.  Yet, it all seems like they just lucked out, it just worked out that way.  Sorta like their whole career, huh?

The other great game you can play with a Sloan album is spot-the-reference.  It used to be Beatles this, Stones that, the usual stuff.  But the group's combined knowledge runs so deep, you can spend the whole disc shouting them out with your friends:  "That's old-school Elvis and the Attractions!"  "This is the Squeeze song."  "Huh-huh, Patrick sounds like Freddie Mercury."

There's only 12 tracks this time, which go by very quickly, and the album does feel a little slight, compared to other longer collections Sloan has released.  Hey, they got four writers, where's all the songs after two years?  But I've heard enough discs crammed with filler, 70 minutes that should have been 30, so I'm not going to complain too much on that point, it's just that I'm always keen for more from Sloan.  It rocks hard, it has some pretty moments (Green Gardens, Cold Montreal and Beverly Terrace are Canadian Kinks numbers), and sounds great in the car.  It sounds like there's another 20 years left in the tank.

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