Sloan – 12 (Universal)
It takes a lot of gall to call the first single from your 12th album “Spin My Wheels.” After all, that’s a phrase applied to many a new record by bands who are long in the tooth. I’ve used it myself. Often. Because when you get to a certain age, you’re inevitably going to fall back on cliché. (As I do, every time I use that phrase in a review. Mea culpa.)
Sloan have been together for 25 years, and there have certainly been times when they have spun their wheels. This is not one of them. Close observers will note, however, that it falls into a consistent pattern of the last 20 years, in which every second record finds the band sounding energized and coherent, while the ones in between often have fans wondering why Sloan are still a band at all—and perhaps some members of Sloan might have wondered that themselves, like on 2014’s Commonwealth, where each of the four members penned and performed a side of a double record on their own.
But back to “Spin My Wheels”: it’s one of the finest singles Sloan has ever released (which puts it in excellent company), and also sounds like one of the oldest; both it and “The Day Will Be Mine” could well have come from 1992’s Smeared. “Spin My Wheels” is by bassist Chris Murphy, who recently played hooky with a new group called TUNS with Matt Murphy and Mike O’Neill; that band’s collaborative approach and spirited debut record seems to have ignited some competitive spirit in the rest of Sloan. Guitarist Jay Ferguson didn’t need prompting; he’s often come up with the killer hooks on the last few Sloan records, and here “Right to Roam” doesn’t disappoint. Guitarist Patrick Pentland comes out swinging with “All of the Voices” and “Have Faith.” Drummer Andrew Scott gets dreamier and psychedelic on “Gone for Good” and “44 Reasons,” the latter of which references the death of Gord Downie.
Even better than the strong songwriting this time out are the performances and the harmonies—not to mention the economy, as they cram all their ideas into 12 songs (of course), only one of which breaks the four-minute mark. This sounds like a band entering a whole new creative period of their career—together. Which is not something either the band or their fans should take for granted. (April 6)
Stream: “Spin My Wheels,” “Right to Roam,” “The Lion’s Share”