Sloan – Parallel Play (Yep Roc Records)

Perhaps reacting to their previous album, 2006’s thirty-song epic Never Hear The End Of It, Sloan have scaled back to a slim fourteen songs and thirty-seven minutes on Parallel Play. Despite the album’s brevity it still has a sprawling, disjointed, quality to it. The reason is that each band-member wrote and sang their own songs and then brought them to rest the band (with the exception of Andrew Scott who recorded his songs without any outside help). Both the methodology and the results remind me of The Beatles’ White Album, where everyone started pulling in a different direction, making for great individual songs but a wildly uneven album. Much like The Beatles (a major influence) each writer in Sloan tends to jump between genres from song to song, making Parallel Play seem at times like the work of 14 different groups. Luckily, about 2/3 of those “groups” are worth listening to. Some of the standouts are the “Jean-Genie”-esque opener “Believe In Me”, the ragged punk rock of “Emergency 911”, the Jesus and Mary Chain-styled scuzzy rocker “Burn For It” and a spacey meditation on loneliness and despair “The Dogs” (I can picture Spiritualized covering this one). Of course, with the highs come the lows, and “Cheap Champagne”, “All I Am Is All You’re Not”, “Living The Dream”, are too middle-of-the-road to challenge the listener or generate excitement. Parallel Play may be inconsistent, but its best moments are as good as anything in Sloan’s catalog.