Twenty years doing anything these days is an achievement. Twenty years making music and sharing the same space with the same three guys you hooked up with in your early twenties could be regarded as a life sentence, and still nobody got murdered. Despite the incumbent years, Canadian power-pop quartet Sloan are the same rakish, loveable band they were at the beginning. The same names, the same faces, the same identifiable hook-laden beat-group sound, that after two decades and ten albums, show no sign of slowing down.
While Webcuts awaits its handmade vinyl copy of the album to arrive (oh, to actually review an album on vinyl….), we’ll just jump right in anyway. It’s amazing to consider the amount of bands who’ve overcome a mid-career slump, seemingly bouncing back having gotten adult concepts like marriage and kids and diminished dreams of worldwide success to continue on rocking with a renewed respect for their art. The last three Sloan albums, The Double Cross included, represent the pinnacle of the latter half of their career. The reinvention arrived with the sprawling Never Hear The End Of It, a double album 30-song treat that on the outside seemed gratuitous and unnecessary, until it revealed itself as a finely crafted record in line with all the other great double albums of any era.
While no stylistic diversion from 2008’s Parallel Play (you’d maybe expect the band to indulge in a little past revisionism, a riff copped from Twice Removed, a vocal hook lifted from One Chord To Another), The Double Cross is Sloan sticking to their time honoured quality-driven modus operandi. Each songwriter contributes and sings their share, with nobody wanting to be seen as letting the side down. Accordingly, the first handful of tracks on The Double Cross are the band’s strongest openers since 1998’s Navy Blues. Patrick Pentland’s Stones-y stomp “Unkind”, Jay Ferguson’s “The Answer Is You” and Chris Murphy’s “Shadow Of Love” all indulge in a friendly game of there-are-no-losers one-upmanship.
There’s enough diversity, with bursts of Sloan-patented disco (“Beverly Terrace”), Dylan-esque R&B (“Traces”) and straight up punk-pop (“I’ve Gotta Know”) in the album’s 12 tracks for it not to seem like one stacked attention-getter after another. The best albums are always the ones that sound as if they were made with the least amount of struggle, that don’t suffer from trying too hard to please, and simply show an act excelling in just being themselves. The Double Cross is no band on the back foot blowing out the candles and easing into retirement, it’s Sloan at their most inconspicuous, sneaker on the foldback finest. Hallelujah.