Sloan

Action Pact (Viking Recordings)

The fab four from Nova Scotia signed a pact indeed, with producer Tom Rothrock, who guided Sloan down the halls of Power Chord Valhalla for its seventh record. A self-described AC/DC fan, Rothrock convinced Sloan that there's no shame in stadium cock-rock, especially when your last record featured strange songs about prostitutes and the Great Wall of China.

Action Pact starts off like most Sloan records, with the anthemic rocker "Gimme That" from guitarist and Kiss fanatic Patrick Pentland. While it serves to set the mood, it falls short of "The Good in Everyone," the rousing opener from 1996's One Chord to Another. On past records, Sloan haggled over song selection, each member writing songs vying for attention. On Action Pact, Rothrock chose the songs and controlled the environment from rehearsals and recording to the studio location in Los Angeles, a long way from the wintry weather of their stomping grounds in Canada.

That said, what most fans might miss is the diversity; the heartbreakers by Jay Ferguson, the quirky, Rhodes-driven pop of Andrew Scott, and Chris Murphy's odes to '70s rock that highlight every record. While Pentland does the damage on Pact with his guitar-driven, colossal hooks, it's Chris Murphy who delivers the rockout-punch with "Ready for You" and Ferguson who revives the body with "False Alarm," a Brit-pop sendup reminiscent of Smeared's "Snowsuit Sound."

This isn't a record to read Balzac to. This is the soundtrack that accompanies you standing in front of the mirror with a tennis racket doing your best impression of Pete Townshend. In fact, you might want to hop into a Ford Mustang Mach II, drive out to the beach as the sun sets, and park across from the Pompano Pier. Bring a boombox, and set it next to a bonfire. Wrap your arms around your girl, hold her tight, and watch your friend Doug (yes, they're always named Doug) play air guitar to this record. You'll remember that moment every time you shake sand out of your Vans.

 
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