54-40 Yes to Everything

One of the keys to 54-40’s success is that while they’re hard to love, they’re difficult to hate. Canada has never clutched the enduring Vancouver-based foursome — still going strong after more than 20 years — to its collective breast quite like Sloan, the Hip or, er, April Wine, but their catchy, inoffensive brand of pop/rock has made them a reliable radio staple. In truth, there’s not much that distinguishes Yes to Everything, their tenth studio LP, from the four albums that followed 1994’s Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, but you can’t really fault a band for staying consistent. Retooled with some new blood (ex-Matthew Good Band axeman Dave Genn replaces the long-serving Phil Comparelli), 54-40 sound simultaneously fresh and familiar here. On tunes like the spiky, new-wavey funk-lite of "Golden Sun” or the mellow, reverb-soaked "Stop Line,” they do an effective job of updating their basic four-piece rock-band set-up without deviating too far from their established template; working the odd handclap or synth bloop into the mix in a way that sounds genuine instead of contrived, like a last-ditch attempt by an aging band to stay hip with the kids. In a way, the album’s accessible collision of jangly pop, scrappy rock and unobtrusive electronics is the R.E.M. record R.E.M. have been struggling for a decade to make. While unlikely to set the charts aflame, Yes to Everything is a sturdy, dependable effort from Canada’s sturdiest, most dependable band. Besides, it’s better to be settled in a groove than to be stuck in a rut, no? (True North)