Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sloan -- Parallel Play (2008)

Sloan -- Parallel Play (Yep Roc/Murder)

2006's Never Hear The End Of It represented a milestone in Sloan’s career. Arguably the band’s best album (though I’ll still give the nod to Navy Blues), the quartet of quality songwriters doled out 30 songs steeped in hooks and melodies and reference points with just the right amount of variety to turn the band into the world’s coolest jukebox.

The new album simply continues this approach, this time with only 13 songs. The last song is a reggae inflected number called “Too Many”, to which many Sloan fans will respond, “No, it’s not enough.”

I consider myself one of those fans. I have all of the band’s studio sets, including the Peppermint EP, and have seen them live a couple of times. I’ve listen to Sloan regularly. But I’m not a hardcore fan, in that I can’t match the names of the songwriters to their songs. Yes, if I called them A, B, C and D, I could slot the songs, but I’ve never taken the time to figure out who is who.

I just know that all four of these guys write great stuff, making Sloan one of the rare bands that can pull off so many cooks without spoiling things. As a result, the alchemy of the band is such a strength, as the collective sensibility of the members means that the band never has to worry about sounding too samey, while always sounding like Sloan.

So in 37 minutes, the band pumps out the pop like nobody else. They bring the rock on the skittish “Emergency 911". It’s paranoid power pop, with handclaps. The band adds some classic Motown/R & B elements on the bittersweet “If I Could Change Your Mind”. “Cheap Champagne” is bopping (with “bop bop” backing vocals) ‘70s styled pop in the vein of Emitt Rhodes, Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren. Just simply superb.

My favorite change of pace is the Dylan-ish “Down in the Basement”. This shambling talking blues about do-it-yourself recording is a real kick. This song has a bit more resonance than the typical Sloan song, as there’s a real defiance and sincerity. It’s a manifesto about making music because you believe in it: “All my sisters convinced me I should keep it up/because it was embedded in my blood type - O.”

“I’m Not a Kid Anymore” is different musically, offering up some hard rock riffs with the usual strong melodies, and looks at the other perspective -- instead of living the rock life, giving it up and working 9 to 5. In addition to giving the world these lines: “I relied heavily on Styx and Stones/not so much Styx when I heard the Ramones,” this is a bratty yet mature look at life, on par with fellow countrymen The Pursuit Of Happiness.

These are just some of the highlights of yet another strong Sloan album. The fact that they can keep cranking out such terrific music is something that we all need to appreciate.

1 comment:

Less Lee said...

Totally OT to this topic (except I am a Sloan fan), but I have a question for you re: this site. Can you email me at