Sloan: Pretty Together

Sloan: Pretty Together

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Sloan

Album: Pretty Together
Label: Murderrecords

Clever pop acts are hard to trust. The Nova Scotia rock band Sloan figured this out three albums into its career, when it abandoned witty, literate grunge-pop and began swaddling arch, self-aware lyrics in the glorious sounds of '70s AM radio. Channeling Badfinger, Kiss, Chicago, and any other adolescent favorites it could reconfigure into exultant modern rock, Sloan recast itself in a warm new light. But the backwards-glancing genuflection also put the band into the confining pigeonhole of "goofily charming nostalgists," as it chased arena-rock dreams on a bar-band budget. On Sloan's new album, Pretty Together, the group pursues new directions without altogether contemporizing. The album still features melodic rock songs played at high volume, and even though all four members write and sing their own compositions, Pretty Together still contains a unified expression of pop ecstasy, with dynamic arrangements bound together by solos, bridges, and shouted, oft-harmonic choruses. New to the disc are electronic textures provided by the occasional synthesizer, and a dreamy mood created by the band's exploration of the spaces between the hooks. Even the anthemic opener, "If It Feels Good Do It," has passages of tense atonality that give way to the mighty riffs and pounding rhythms. Pretty Together's layered approach isn't as immediately arresting as the socko rock Sloan produced on the cult-classic records One Chord To Another, Navy Blues, and Between The Bridges, but the delayed gratification of a complicated ballad like "I Love A Long Goodbye" may be more satisfying over the long haul. Sloan's humor is as keen as ever, as evidenced by "Pick It Up And Dial It," on which the band exhorts fans to call in to keep rock alive, or by such random lines as, "I'll be quick and state my case / underlined and single-spaced," and "Flying above Heathrow / never dreaming of the time or my dwindling cashflow." But the band's days of being too clever for its own good are over, buried through years spent digging up its roots.