erasing clouds

Sloan, Action Pact

reviewed by dave heaton

It was around Sloan's third album One Chord to Another when they started having these iconic-looking photos of themselves on their album covers, photos that made them look like proper Rock Stars. It was around that same time that their albums shifted into classic-rock mode, when the group took their British-Invasion style melodic pop-rock songs and beefed them up with extra-thick guitars and a "we're gonna rock you off your ass until you can't stand up" attitude.

The four members of the band, all singers and songwriters, have the ability to write sweet, catchy songs but they also want to ROCK you like you've never been rocked before. There's a balance there that's hard to get exactly right. They want to make an album you'll turn up loud and pump your fist to without making it sound routine empty. While One Chord to Another and Navy Blues struck that balance perfectly, to my ears their last two studio albums - 1999's Between the Bridges and Pretty Together - were all over the map, with great arena-rock anthems and pretty love ballads sitting uncomfortably next to songs that tried to hard to get you up and rocking along.

Sloan's seventh studio album Action Pact has some of the most explicitly Rock Star cover art photos they've done yet, and that's a sign of where the album's coming from. They've said they tried to record the album like they're AC/DC, but don't get scared; what that means is they've given the album a cohesive sound that makes all the songs hang together as big rock n' roll anthems. The guitar riffs and drum breaks sound huger than life, and the album rolls along at a fast pace. The good news, though, is that they're mostly playing to their strengths. Though a song or two veers in the direction of big-loud-dumb, most of the songs play up the melodies and harmonies. Sloan come off here like a pop band who've learned how to rock their songs up like you wouldn't believe; in other words, on their seventh album captures the essence of their third and fourth albums brilliantly.

"Everybody seems content to fade away," they sing on the album's final track. Sometimes continuing to do what you do best is a mark of survival, not surrender. Action Pact is no great leap forward, but it is a splendid rock album that you can turn up and sing along to without feeling like an idiot.


Issue 15, September 2003

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