Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review - Sloan - The Double Cross

To celebrate twenty years of making and recording music Sloan has released The Double Cross, their tenth album. While many bands would be phoning it in at this point in their career these songs don’t sound like a band coasting on memories of earlier success. Instead one hears a well oiled musical machine where each part perfectly integrates with the others. If any egos ever existed in this democratic band, they’ve been left in the dust decades ago.

Democratic? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that each of the four members of the band write and sing two to four songs apiece for each and every album. However instead of sounding disjointed mishmash these skillful maestros make it work, thanks in large part to a solid grounding in the music of the late sixties and all of the seventies. For instance, the opening track, “Follow the Leader” is a galloping rocker with jagged drums and hints of The Zombies with the kind of melody that will keep you company for days. If the first song got your engines rumbling the next one, “The Answer Was You,” will send you to the moon on a gorgeous, effortless, soaring power pop melody that a band like Muse would kill for. This song sounds like young love. The triple punch leading off the album is “Unkind,” a chunky, pounding rocker with a gutsy, classic riff and cheerful melody that will elevate your mood while bringing to mind thoughts of early Stones and The Kinks. While these three songs alone justify the purchase of The Double Cross the band joyfully give you the jangly 60s rave up of “Shadow of Love” where Keith Moon and Nick Lowe cross paths. The Turtles poke their head out with “She’s Slowin’ Down Again,” a masterful song of swirling guitars, relaxed background vocal harmonies and just the right amount of electric piano, leading to "Green Gardens, Cold Montreal", a flowing acoustic finger picked song that could easily fit on an early Led Zeppelin album. Two songs, “It’s Plain To See” and “I’ve Gotta Know”, take your breath away with their energy and brevity but sandwiched between them is the stunning “Your Daddy Will Do,” a catchy foot tapper of strings and jangly guitars that effectively combine a light disco beat with 10cc and a bridge by Brian Wilson. Sure it’s a bit odd but it totally works. If Spoon wrote songs in the mid-seventies the result would be “Beverly Terrace” which features a thumping bass drum, steady piano and background vocals that will raise the hairs on your neck. The album takes a turn for the dark and moody with “Traces” where Bob Dylan sings with Golden Earring as his backup band and finishes with the quiet, melancholy “Laying So Low,” a beautiful song easily equal to the best of Matthew Sweet.

Sloan writes the kind of effortless, intelligent, instantly enjoyable rock music that makes you want to pick up a guitar and learn how to play. How I managed to not hear of this engaging, talented band for the last twenty years is a mystery though I can assure you that I shall soon be buying up their earlier albums. I suggest you do the same, starting with The Double Cross.

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