XX Marks the Spot

“Sloan is not anyone’s favorite band. It’s doubtful Sloan’s mom even places them in her Top 10.” – Pitchfork.com, 2003

Anyone who has gone to see Sloan, and heard their fans chant their name before the show starts, knows the above statement is a crock of shit.* They may not be any Pitchfork staffers favorite bands, but they are a lot of people’s. I’m not sure I have an absolute, but Sloan are up there for this guy.

In a lot of ways, they are my band. We’re around the same age, we both loved My Bloody Valentine and the Smiths and then, as the years went on, discovered British Invasion bands, Thin Lizzy, ’70s power pop and glam, Fleetwood Mac and more. Sloan have been there for me for 20 years and ten albums and have never really let me down. Sure there were periods where we didn’t keep in touch — regretful jobs, relationships, albums — but when ever we saw each other face-to-face it was just like old times, without too much remember when.

Sloan are in their 20th year of existence and have just released their tenth album which is maybe the Sloan-iest album they’ve ever made and probably one of their best. I used to say Sloan changed with every album, but ever since probably Action Pact they’ve figured out their own sound which is an amalgam of everything they had done up to that point. Power pop, crunchy riff rock, those signature harmonies, lots of drum fills and even more puns.

Puns like naming a 30-track double album Never Hear the End of It or, in this case, The Double Cross being another way to say XX, the big 2-0. Like I said it’s especially Sloan-y, this one, with the most cross-polination we’ve heard from Chris, Jay, Patrick and Andrew in a dozen years. The band have admitted that pretty much since 1999’s Between the Bridges, the four members (who all write and sing) mostly work and record seperately on their songs. But here everyone’s got their fingers in everything.

Songs flow seamlessly into one another. Chris Murphy colaborates with everyone, singing a verse on Andrew Scott’s “She’s Slowing Down Again”; his “Shadow of Love” shows up in coda form in Jay Ferguson’s groovy “Beverly Terrace”; and even co-wrote a song with Patrick Pentland (the lovely album-closer “Laying So Low”) which is kind of astounding if you know anything about Sloan’s dynamic. And it’s all for the good of the record which gets in and out in 37 minutes.

There are just some real classics here. Jay’s “The Answer Was You,” which sails along some lovely melotron, and “Beverly Terrace” which is a glam-disco stomper of the highest order. “She’s Slowing Down Again” is quintessential Andrew Scott, behind the piano again for the first time since Pretty Together, and it sounds like it coulda been on Navy Blues. He also turns in the Dylan-ish one-chord organ jam “Traces” that once again shows him to be Sloan’s most thoughtful lyricist, on even the most tossed-off number.

Of course the band’s most quotable lyricist is Chris Murphy, the man who gave us “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans,” successfully rhymed “onomatopoeia” and much more, actually lets down his guard here. It’s not just all bon mots. “Laying So Low” is pretty bare emotions. (He knows his way around a hook too, of course, and “Shadow of Love” and “Daddy Will Do” are rediculously catchy.) And for the first time in a long time, I like all of Patrick’s songs, especially the rifftastic “Unkind” that sits confidently beside his other arena rockers “Money City Maniacs” and “Losing California.”

And it all works great together, which is kind of Sloan in a nutshell.

It’s such a solid record, even Pitchfork unequivocally liked it, though it’s 8.1 wasn’t quite enough to give it Best New Music. Hey, it’s something I guess.

*That quote is from their review of Action Pact which is generally accepted as Sloan’s worst album.

MP3: Sloan – Beverly Terrace

You can get The Double Cross in a variety of formats as well as some special packs aimed at superfans like myself.

In celebration of the band’s China Anniversary, Sloan HQ has been making a series of very entertaining little web documentaries where various actors (Dave Foley, Jason Schwartzman), and musicians (The Dears, Broken Social Scene, Fucked Up) talk about their love of Sloan. (For the “favorite Sloan lyric” one, it’s all Chris quotes, no surprise.) There’s also an especially fun “Underwhelmed” medley where their first hit gets a dramatic reading, plus some commissioned covers: Choir! Choir! Choir! doing “Everything You’ve Done Wrong,” and Owen Pallet conducting a string quartet version of Andrew’s “People of the Sky.

Sloan are touring too, hitting NYC at the end of June: Bowery Ballroom on 6/29 and The Knitting Factory on 6/30. All the tour dates — and a couple of those little movies — are after the jump!

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