Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Music Review: Parallel Play

The Halifax, Nova Scotia, bred foursome known as Sloan have consistently released some of the finest power pop this side of Badfinger. Catchy melodies and a genius ear for harmony which showcased literate, intelligent lyrics were the group's forte. Notice I said "were", since those days apparently, regrettably, are in the past. I knew this day would come, though the surprising return to form with 2006's Never Hear the End of It gave me some hope that the group had some energy left. Parallel Play, however, confirms my deepest suspicions. It is easily the worst Sloan album ever recorded and I hope they'll disband now before they further tarnish their once sterling reputation.

Like so many bands who overstay their welcome, Sloan simply doesn't know when to quit. My advice for all artists, musicians, actors, actresses, athletes, coaches, or those whose talent and skill is decidedly time-limited is pretty simple: quit while you're ahead. Sloan seems to have scorned that advice and the results are predictably mediocre. Previous albums, starting with 2001's Pretty Together have telegraphed the idea that the group is old and out of ideas. Songs with titles like "Nothing Last Forever Anymore", which proclaims, wearily, "I can see the writing on the wall" are normally not good signs. To an extent, Sloan's decline isn't really that surprising, since now everyone's over forty, settled down, increasingly grey-headed, and (with the exception of one member) now has children.

Before writing this review, I took a look at what the mainstream critics had written, and aside from a dismissive, condescending Spin Magazine summation, which for once I wholeheartedly agreed with, I didn't see much in the way of notice. These days, with the music industry hand in glove with the music press, one expects a kind of fabricated enthusiasm and gloss, which, if taken at face value would render every new release an instant classic. No amount of tossed-off, inauthentic, formulaic enthusiasm can salvage bad product, and Parallel Play is easily that and more. Aside from the always pervasive sycophantic praise of hardcore fans, this album has landed with a resolute thud, even in its native Canada, and that's rather telling.

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