Sam Roberts' fifth album Collider finds the Canadian rocker doing what he does best: cranking out thoughtful, melodic, midtempo rockers that hit the sweet spot between radio-friendly slickness and singer/songwriter intelligence and deliver almost an hour of classic rock-inspired goodness. While some of his records in the past have toyed with alt-rock noise jams or sweeping prog rock concepts, this time out he’s content to stick to the middle of the road. This isn’t a criticism at all. Roberts is so adept at crafting simple, memorable rock songs, and his persona is so charming and direct, that he doesn’t need to do anything too flashy to make an album work. In fact, the only moments that don’t work on the album, like the jittery, horn-filled opener "The Last Crusade" or the jam band-fake funky "Let It In" are the moments when he tries to stretch out a little. The album really gets going when Roberts and his always sympathetic band stick to the basics. The easy choogling "Without a Map" or the driving rocker "Sang Froid" are examples of how they can make a simple song work by added energy and passion, not tricky arrangements. A song like the soaring "No Arrows" could even be a hit if the stars aligned just right. Along with rocking the rockers like a champ, Roberts proves to be a fine balladeer on the handful of songs that slow the tempo; showing great depth of feeling in the quietly rollicking "Twist the Knife" and the weary-sounding "Partition Blues." Like he has through most of his career, Roberts comes off like the guy on a team who doesn’t seem to be doing much, but if you took him out of the lineup, the team’s fortunes would plummet. He rarely makes mistakes, never embarrasses himself, and always turns in a solid performance. He may not win awards or get commercials, but he’ll get the job done. It may not sound very rock & roll when you put it like that, but even rock & roll needs unspectacular sparkplug-types, and with Collider, Roberts proves himself an essential part of the R&R landscape.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra