Sloan

Commonwealth

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AllMusic Review by

One of the great rock clich├ęs is that the Beatles' White Album is four solo albums in one double-LP. Leave it to Sloan, the great, progressive Canadian power pop band, to find a way to one-up the Beatles. Commonwealth, their 11th studio album (which perhaps coincidentally borrows a title from an old Beatles outtake), is divided into four distinct sides, each written and recorded by an individual bandmember. Conceptually, it's clever -- its wit is further telegraphed in how each side corresponds to a different king in a deck of playing cards -- but its construction offers opportunities for an outright mess, something Sloan skillfully avoid, likely due to their shared love of classic rock, pop, psychedelia, and glam. Every member has his own spin on these sounds: Jay Ferguson opens the proceedings with a dexterous dive into McCartney melodicism tempered with a bit of new wave; Chris Murphy picks up that thread, adding a bit of a heavier element of psychedelic swirl; Patrick Pentland devotes his four songs to a welcome blast of fuzz-toned crunch, while Andrew Scott draws things to a close with his own version of Abbey Road, a 17-minute suite called "Forty-Eight Portraits." Each side is distinctive but each also feels like Sloan and, despite its knowing construction, it's not showy, nor is it exhausting, not in the way the relentless 30-song 2006 album, Never Hear the End of It, was. By adhering to the fidelity of a side, there's a dramatic arc within every four songs and, combined, the sum is greater than the individual parts -- which is how it should be with a band.

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