At the core of the Sam Roberts Band‘s Collider is a funky, sweet groove that just goes and goes for days. This effort, a true sign of all things collective, is something special for Roberts, the Montreal-born rocker. Not only is Collider his first record in which he references his band in the title, but it’s a bold new direction bolstered by horns and groovy percussion.
Along with his band, Roberts enlists the help of percussionist Ben Massarella (Califone), Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk) and Stuart Bogie (Antibalas). Califone’s producer Brian Deck is on the wheels and switches, too, and that thickens up the sound while giving it a decidedly simple air.
Lead Canadian single “I Feel You” is a straightforward chunk of acoustic guitar-driven rock. Perhaps a nod to Roberts’ satisfyingly lean music on past records, the number sways like a cool breeze but offers little by way of signs to what’s to come.
It’s the sleek, dangerous groove of “The Last Crusade,” the album’s opening track, that pops things off well. The horns sweep in over an addictive hook and Roberts’ crew sells us on the newer direction with a gleeful hop. It’s good, clean fun.
For a rocker to stand by his band so much is admirable. Despite being the key name in neon, Roberts is an almost bashful hero who doesn’t appear to desire too much of the spotlight. His vocals blend into the larger mix and rarely pop out on their own. He’s unfussy without being aloof, lacking the oft-gaudy showiness of other frontmen.
Indeed, Roberts’ belief in the greater good shines on tracks like “The Band vs. The World,” a slow, plodding work of jamming guitars that sinks its feet into the mud. Roberts, Dave Nugent and Eric Fares hammer through the thick arrangement, while drummer Josh Trager and bassist James Hall ground it in the fundamentals of rhythm.
It’s this tendency of the band members to melt into one hip, funky unit that keeps Collider going strong.
Even with the addition of some guests and fancy production tricks, Roberts’ core is still hard at work. The songs matter and the way the band gathers around the arrangements for that sort of late-night-jam feel matters too. It’s a refreshing vibe, one that looks fondly at the new opportunities without neglecting the foundation that brought things forward in the first place.