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Sloan | Pretty Together (Murderecords/Poptones)
Sloan's last album, 'Between The Bridges', was probably my favourite of 1999, a dozen top-drawer soulful pop/rock gems that found the Canadian quartet in fine fettle. For the follow up, the sense of cohesion that gave 'BTB' its ebb and flow is forsaken in favour of a more considered flexing of the diversity muscle. The opening If It Feels Good Do It sees the band at its most puerile lyrically, and despite the chunky guitar and jump-cut arrangement it feels like a throwaway stab at some overdue chart action. Things quickly improve with the trio In The Movies, The Other Man and Dreaming of You which collectively illustrate the multiplicity of a four-pronged vocal and songwriting team. Pick It Up and Dial It however, is strictly b-side fodder, a tongue-in-cheek indulgence that will probably go down a storm in a sports arena of flag-waving patriots (check the 'cheer here' space that follows the inspired lyric "they say rock and roll is dead again, you tell me if it's true..."). Highlights include Chris Murphy's acoustic ode Life of a Working Girl, Patrick Pentland's It's In Your Eyes (which harks back to Worried Now from their 1994 classic 'Twice Removed'), Andrew Scott's big-riffing Can't See The Ground For The Sky and Jay Ferguson's lush, Bacharach-esque Who You Taking To? Closing in low-key style with three slow/mid-tempo pop ballads, 'Pretty Together' lacks the focus of Sloan's finest work, yet boasts at least half a dozen contenders for a 'Best Of' compilation. Such incongruity only serves to emphasise the demands we, as an audience, place on the shoulders of the very best.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002