Sloan Pretty Together

Sloan's sixth full-length studio album, Pretty Together, kicks off in big, familiar fashion before taking an abrupt turn for the easy-listening doldrums. The disc opens with an intro straight from the band's own play book (think One Chord To Another's intro to "The Good In Everyone") setting up "If It Feels Good Do It," another solid, straight-ahead rock single in search of an ad campaign. "In The Movies" follows, providing the first indication that some members of Sloan may have been listening to a lot of Steely Dan lately. The next track, a woeful adulterer's lament called "The Other Man," suggests Hall & Oates may have seen some carousel time as well. "Dreaming of You" stays the soft-rock course and comes off as one of the most (if not one of the only) fully realised songs in the bunch. Like every other Sloan album, Pretty Together includes a free game: match each member of the famously democratic quartet with his songwriting contributions. It's pretty easy this time out, but here are a few album-specific hints, just in case. Jay's new songs are the ones that don't sound awkward and rushed in any way (including his unintentional homage to Air Supply, "Are You Giving Me Back My Love?"). Crooning? That would be a Chris Murphy composition. If it meanders, swells to great heights or sounds like XTC, it probably came from Andrew Scott's pen. The rest, including the tunes that send you scrambling for a Bic lighter to hold aloft, are either products of Patrick or Chris or both, as there were reportedly a few instances of collaboration in the studio. An important part of any effective democracy, though, is communication. On Pretty Together, Sloan seems to suffer from a bit of a breakdown in that regard. It's as if each member assumed the other guys were going to be supplying the fresh, memorable material. Certainly, some fans will find moments to embrace here. Others, however, will discover Between the Bridges was a pretty solid album after all. (BMG)