"A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005"
THE CAPITOL YEARS
"Let Them Drink"
Burn & Shiver
When Sloan made its south-of-the-border debut with a 1993 album that was appropriately titled "Smeared," the Nova Scotia band was widely compared to such masters of sonic impasto as My Bloody Valentine. Now excerpted from that disc to begin "A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005," "Underwhelmed" and "500 Up" sound brighter and tighter. Perhaps they always were, or perhaps it's the company they're keeping: 14 other pert pop-rockers that revisit, and gently reinterpret, the 1960s British Invasion.
Such songs as "Money City Maniacs" and "The Good in Everyone" are quintessential power pop, combining the melodic sparkle and harmonic depth of the early Beatles and Hollies with the bigger, more emphatic sound of power-chorders such as the Who. All four band members write, and generally portray themselves as well-meaning, boy-next-door types. (One exception is "The Other Man," reportedly based on a real-life romantic dilemma.) Sloan's attitude and the music are both a little old-fashioned -- who talks about A sides these days? -- but not unappealing. For listeners who haven't given up on guitars, songcraft and earnestness, "A Sides Win" is a winner.
Since they chose a name that evokes box sets, it's hardly surprising that the Capitol Years are also students of how rock used to be. The Philadelphia band can seem overly self-conscious on stage, but the new "Let Them Drink" often breaks free of singer-guitarist Shai Halperin's circa 1966-72 inspirations -- or at least jumbles them in unexpected ways. A few of these 12 songs sound fragmentary or thin, but overall this the Years' fullest, liveliest release. From the harmony-driven "Juicers" to the pop-boogie "Ramona," the band has produced several contenders for its own box set.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Sunday at the Black Cat.