You can call Sloan a lot of things, but stingy isn't one of 'em. The Canadian foursome's new Yep Roc release, Never Hear the End of It, is a whopping 76-plus minutes of slickly self-produced power-pop: thirty songs in all, even if a few of 'em are more like fifty-second snips than fully fleshed-out verse/verse/chorus/verse exercises.
When every man jack in your quartet is capable of carrying the singer/songwriter flag, I supposed that makes it a tad easier to stuff your disc to the bursting point. Still, the last Sloan disc I know, 2001's Pretty Together, had almost as many bland tracks as rousers, so it clearly isn't that easy.
Six years later, though, you can't accuse this disc of being short on pop ideas: if anything, the plethora of hooks works against the neophyte listener. Listen to a great song like "I Understand," which sounds like something Pezband could've concocted back in the skinny tie era, and before you know it you're three tracks further in, mentally meandering and wondering if you need to check your online bank account. Slap yerself once to pay close attention to the hand-clapper that's now rolling, "Can You Figure It Out?" and, damned if it doesn't turn out to be a fine track, too.
More than once I found myself thinking of Hüsker Dü's 1987 masterwork Warehouse – another brimming collection that initially came across overwhelming but has since lodged every track in my pleasure lobes. (The Dü comparison isn't arbitrary, since the boys themselves name-check that great gone band in their witty Ideal Girl song, "Someone to Be True With.") Sometimes too much of a good thing is just the right amount.
So, if I don't have hold of the whole thing yet, just gimme another six months. Those songs that immediately leapt out at me – "Who Taught You to Live Like That?" (great glammy group chorus on this 'un), the sweet harmonic entreaty "Listen to the Radio," the Who-like moaner "Something's Wrong," the woozily dB's styled "I Know You," or "Fading into Obscurity" – remain such smoochable samples of hard-working pop-rock that I know this disc'll remain in regular rotation for quite a while.
At times, Sloan's bright sonics are superior to its lyrics – which can occasionally get a trace clunky (the cake line in "Obscurity" has to be the lousiest use of a baked goods metaphor since "MacArthur Park"!) – but more often the band's canny blend of mod moves with new wave flavorings, that owe as much to Mike & the Mechanics as they do the Cars, provides beaucoup bouncy pleasure. I'm especially enthralled with "Set In Motion," wherein bassist Chris Murphy (at least I think it's Murphy: the band is coy when it comes to parceling out individual credits) grouses about the filming of a biographical movie that he doesn't remember authorizing.
If any single popster can be nailed as the overriding influence on this disc, it's the Paul McCartney who worked on such sonic collages as "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and "Band on the Run" (and was arguably the prime mover behind Abbey Road's suite of Side Two songs). Never Hear regularly deploys a similar strategy with its shorter tracks, bundling two to three of 'em together so that the casual listener doesn't even notice when one cut ends and other begins – and it usually works, even if you sometimes wish that the earlier song would return to resolve itself. Only time I found myself getting really caught up short was when the Posies-styled "Living with the Masses" was succeeded by a track which sounded like it'd slipped onto the disc off a Bad Religion session ("HFXNSHC") – but I'm pretty sure this blip o' sonic dissonance was intentional.
Never Hear the End of It? That's not a warning; it's a promise.