Canadian rock-wizards Sloan continue their search for the perfect pop song, and on this album’s first single, “The Rest of My Life,” they come pretty damn close. Sloan have always done well in their native Canada, but, despite several attempts, they have failed to make much of an impact abroad, much due to label difficulties. That’s to the listeners’ loss, though, and not Sloan’s; they seem perfectly happy building an ever-larger audience the slow and hard way, fifteen years after they first got together.
Sloan is a rare phenomenon on today’s music scene, a band playing hum-able pop music with distinction and ease, carving out one amazing tune after another, seemingly on pure instinct. Heavily indebted to the Beatles-worshippers of power pop — Big Star, the Posies, the Teenage Fanclub and Guided by Voices — Sloan are competing against myriads of similar-sounding bands, but with one crucial advantage: Sloan sound relevant and contemporary. Plus, they stand up well beside their canonized musical influences.
Sloan are smart guys, but not annoyingly so. The pun of the album’s title is about as advanced as it gets. Sloan are thankfully more concerned about blissful hooks than postmodern irony. And as a result, the songs are mesmerizing; brimming with choruses you’ve almost heard before, but rarely so elegantly done, so engagingly pulled off. It’s pure pop bliss distilled, wrapped in a neatly controlled hard rock format. Check out “I Was Wrong,” “Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore” and “Who Loves Life More?” for some random examples of harmonic pop brilliance.
Action Pact, in fact, is good enough to rub shoulders with the best of the band’s past, 1994’s Twice Removed and 1998’s One Chord to Another. Any fan of intelligent (but dumb) and well-crafted (but juvenile) power pop, should feel obliged to seek out this album.
Oh, and this US version comes with two great, previously unreleased bonus tracks, making this a near-essential buy even for those who already own the domestic Canadian version.