5.28.2011

Sloan - The Double Cross

Sloan is everywhere. You don't have to know that you're hearing them, but a lot of times you are. Well, maybe not everywhere, but Sloan is a unique combination of prolific and ubiquitous. You don't have to have bought an album or even sought Sloan out. Their music has appeared in commercials. Their unique sound graced the Virgin Suicides Soundtrack. That was a song called "Everything You've Done Wrong," and for the longest time, since the song is sandwiched amid Todd Rundgren, The Hollies, Al Green and Gilbert O'Sullivan, I always thought Sloan to be some unmentioned '60s - '70s contemporary. That lasted for a couple of years. It was 1999, and I was still in high school. No internet. No smart phones. Life was simpler then. So, when I bought their 2001 album Pretty Together, based primarily on the track "The Other Man," which was a solid, mature and semi-rocking tale of being the guy she (or he, I supposed) is cheating with (which turned out to be strangely prophetic...) was a great track that felt current (2001 current) and made me realize who Sloan was. Turns out, Sloan has been around since 1991. That's 20 years by my count. Could be wrong. Not great at math. It's a long time to make music, and hone their sound, which varies from power-pop mid/late-'60s, into a bit of the sprawling stadium pop of the '70s. The thing is, this band knows how to craft a proper pop song. And on each of their 10 LPs and 2 EPs, they apply the formula with passion, vigor and a healthy dose of humility.

In 2006, Sloan released Never Hear the End of It, an album that didn't grab me initially, but has grown into one of the most comprehensively excellent in their catalog. It was an award winner, picking up Juno nominations and an East Coast Music Award for Rock Recording of the Year. Fifteen years into their career, Sloan was still churning out amazing work. So, when this year's The Double Cross, touted as a serious return to their poppy, high-energy roots was announced, I awaited it with bated breath. And for good reason. The opening track "Follow the Leader" is about as perfectly crafted as a song can be, darting through two movements and ending on a pristine cry. And the whole album is that way. It's not perfect, but nothing is. And as joyful pop rock goes, this is some of the best, most thoughtful and most aurally interesting you'll find. Sloan has mastered harmony and call-and-response. Sloan dominates when it comes to bringing layers of sound to their listeners, throwing guitars and keys and drums and rattling alternative percussion. And what's even more beautiful is that The Double Cross has no gaps between songs, like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, when the Beatles did that for the very first time, capturing the set list experience with straight transitions. The album feels like a show. And it feels like a true album because if you try to listen to just one track, the song endings are clumsy, but put together, goddamn does this album excel!

"Unkind" is the single, a riff-heavy beautiful song that lives on the line "You suck the light out of the room." But from "Shadow of Love" to "Laying So Low," The Double Cross is immaculate. It's all positive energy, fun beats, rousing riffs and frolicking. This is beautiful work by a truly talented band. And some of the songs are not immediately memorable, but I defy any listener to hear any of them and say confidently that they did not enjoy it. Writing great pop music is a task. It's balancing the tastes of the populace. That's no simple feat. And especially when a song like "She's Slowing Down Again," that sounds so perfectly like the natural progression of the Beatles in this century, comes in to really, really charm you, well, it's like a fix. It's fun and when it's over you just want to go back for another taste. Listen to the album below. Repeatedly. Go buy it. Download it or whatever, but don't deny yourself this great opportunity to hear some phenomenal music by true rock legends.

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