"Rock and roll is alive and all right," announces Sloan on its latest studio album, "Between the Bridges," and this Nova Scotia band almost makes you believe it. Since abandoning its original noise-lullaby sound, the quartet has led an unabashed pop-rock revival, pursuing the spirit and sometimes the sound of the circa-1966 Beatles. Even when the group's members explicitly address being Nova Scotian--as they do on the opening tune, "The N.S."--they have one eye trained on the other side of the ocean.
The band still makes reference to its indie-rock heritage with titles like "The Marquee and Moon," a homage to Television's "Marquee Moon," but these days its style is crisply mainstream. The fact that all four musicians both write and sing gives the sound breadth, yet at no cost to cohesiveness. From the bluesy "Sensory Deprivation" to the country-tinged "A Long Time Coming" to the slightly loungey "Waiting for the Slow Songs," "Between the Bridges" is deft, energetic and assured. That's not quite enough to bring back the sound of '66, but it should please listeners who wish it had never gone away.
Sloan also offers a tour through its back catalogue on "4 Nights at Palais Royale," a two-CD set that was mostly recorded during the Toronto engagement memorialized in its title. Included are such lively, melodic rockers as "The Lines You Amend," "I Wanna Thank You," and "Everything You've Done Wrong." Still, it's an album that only a fan could love, thanks to the between-song chatter. When demanding that the audience sing happy birthday to bassist Chris Murphy or chant "Sloan, Sloan," it seems that the band takes being big in Canada a little too seriously.
Appearing Saturday at the Black Cat with the Deadly Snakes.
* To hear a free Sound Bite from Sloan's "Between the Bridges," call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8122. For a free Sound Bite from "4 Nights at Palais Royale", press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)