Sloan exemplifies many of the things that make rock and roll great: strong guitar melodies, hooky yet not entirely predictable song structures, solid grooves, and strong singing complete with lots of harmonizing. In listening to their back catalog (which is, on the whole, worthwhile), it’s apparent that they’ve become more and more comfortable being who they are: a band intent on making songs that will pop back into your head for hours or days after listening to them. They want to be that band, earnestly.
Which brings us to Never Hear the End of It, Sloan’s 8th full-length studio release. Since their success is secure in Canada and probably never going to happen in the U.S., or maybe since Sloan has been at this for so long, they do some things with this album that are outside the norm. First off is the album cover’s background, which is pink. This, to me, is ballsy. How many male bands would do that?
Anyway, the title itself is a play on its length, which clocks in at just under 77 minutes, with 30 songs, effectively making it a double-album. For the first couple of listens, it’s better to split it up; I recommend taking a short intermission after track 14, “I Understand.”
Initially, though the album is a tour de force, its length can be a bit overwhelming. On the other hand, that’s probably part of the point, as this abundance of material crammed into a single listening session (the songs transition into each other seamlessly, for the most part) seems to be a rebellion against the trend among music fans to simply get their favorite single tracks from an artist. They’re reasserting the rapidly disappearing concept that albums are important by piecing together all of these songs into one whole. They haven’t cut content to fit a more standard album length, and since Sloan is a band where everybody writes songs and sings, there’s no shortage of material.
The songs run the gamut from arena rock (“Flying High Again”, “Who Taught You to Live Like That?”) to synthesizer-laced, effects-laden space pop (“Listen to the Radio”, “Golden Eyes”) to piano-jangle power-pop (“Right or Wrong”, “Before the End of the Race”) to soft-rock anthems (“Can’t You Figure It Out?”, “Live the Life You’re Dreaming Of”) to fist-pumping hard rock (“Ill Placed Trust”, “HFXNSHC” [before you ask: Halifax Nova Scotia Hardcore]).
Which tracks you like on this album may have more to do with what styles of music you enjoy and less to do with the songs themselves. Whereas many of Sloan’s previous albums may have been a bit more monochromatic, tending towards more overall cohesiveness in terms of sound, it’s refreshing to hear them pull off so many disparate sounds and weave them together, one song into the next, so enjoyably.
The release of the A Sides Win singles compilation in 2005 (review) triggered the usual interpretation that this was a band that might hang it up. Never Hear the End of It is proof that Sloan is still on top of their game, better than ever, turning out pop music better than just about anybody on either side of the North American divide.
Stream the whole album at Sloan’s site.