Power pop-era

Sep 29, 1999 at 12:00 am

Sloan fans are now officially spoiled. The evidence? The past two years have yielded more than half of the Canadian power-pop quartet’s recorded output (and, arguably, their finest musical moments). Sloan spent the first half of the ’90s dickering around with the marketing end of the record industry, creating a minibuzz around their hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, nearly breaking up and operating from multiple home bases (until recently, half the band lived in Toronto, while half stayed in Halifax). But, in the waning moments of this century, the cross-border rock heroes have hunkered down and dazzled discerning rock fans and critics alike with the one-two-three punch of their 1997 Beatles-plus-irony comeback album One Chord To Another, last year’s rocked-up Navy Blues and the recent double-live CD 4 Nights at the Palais Royale.

Now they’ve struck while the rock’s hot with Between the Bridges, a neat summation of all things Sloan. The band has reached that rarefied goal of becoming self-sustaining without all of the rock star trappings. They’ve relocated themselves and their record label, Murderecords, to Toronto. They’ve done a bit of growing up and growing wiser and, in between the chords, harmonies, arrangements and the most focused, concrete set of Sloan lyrics yet, the Nova Scotian man-boys have created their most potent celebration of rock ’n’ roll’s still-powerful ability to save your uncynical soul.

Couched in the form of the least pretentious rock opera you’ve ever heard, BTB’s 12 songs link together, following a narrative path from alienation, exuberant friendship, rock-gang unity, narrow escapes from rock’s business machinery and celebration, referencing their own songs and lyrics along the way. Between the Bridges is the least cheeky Sloan album to date, and that may leave some of their teen sing-along fans in the cold, but the members haven’t grown so old that they can’t conjure the idealism of youth – even if that conjuring comes at the bittersweet expense of realizing you can’t go home again.

In the end, though, it’s all about the rock. And, yes, Virginia, Sloan still rocks.