Action Pact is Sloan's seventh full-length studio album. It is, without a doubt, the most fun new album I encountered in 2003. Following after 2001's Pretty Together, it contains a delightfully fluid set of heavy arena rockers, whose lyrics often combine clear insight with a sharp wit and sense of humour.
- Gimme That (2:39)
The album begins with a strong, off-beat riff which quickly leads into the main body of the first song. The interplay of the two guitars propels the song through its harmonised verses and call-and-response choruses, providing an assertive-sounding beginning to the album. The last verse contains a potshot at Nickelback (well-deserved, from the band's perspective).
- Live On (3:11)
Providing a counterpoint to the opener, this second song is more laid-back, with much more prominent bass and drum parts. Sloan's fondness for Beatlesque harmonies shows up here in the chorus, though backed with a modern indie rock sound.
- Backstabbin' (2:51)
Perhaps the weakest song on the album, this song does manage to convey the not-entirely-serious fashion in which the members of Sloan approach their lyrics. "So then you turn around and give me that look, yeah; backstabbin' with a positive hook"
- The Rest of My Life (2:45)
The first single from the album, it may well have been chosen because it is the song on the album which is the most obviously different from Sloan's older work. The song itself reflects on finding love and settling down, in a somewhat self-deprecating manner. The music is clean and somewhat jangly, with a relaxed, walking-speed beat behind it.
- False Alarm (3:47)
The first real gem on the album. An arpeggiated riff opens the song and fills in the gaps throughout, while the choruses are underscored by a power-chord riff whose insistence contrasts with the relaxed tone of the vocals. The lyrics are smart and describe someone who's been single long enough that he no longer expects to find love. "But somethin' always happens whenever we're together."
- Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore (3:18)
Subdued and reflective, this song meditates on the end phase of a relationship, or perhaps one that should have happened but just isn't going to. The main melody of the song is a meandering, infectious thing that proceeds just as quickly as it needs to and not more. The choruses are progressively heavier until in the last chorus the guitars almost overwhelm the vocals. The end comes suddenly.
- Hollow Head (3:37)
Fast, catchy, and somewhat punky, this song is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but is certainly worthwhile. The verses are propulsive and the choruses practically cascade out. The lyrics are a little disjointed for no good reason, a rarity for this album, but the main part of the chorus is clear enough and is wonderfully imagistic. "Arms and elbows / made to hold close / legs that follow / head that's hollow"
- Ready for You (2:07)
This song moves along with a steady bass pulse above which the guitars play around with riffs. The lyrics continue on the theme of being surprised by love, this time focusing on someone who is perfectly self-sufficient until a certain somebody walks across his path.
- I Was Wrong (2:52)
A full-out power-pop song, this song finds joy in jaunty syncopated rhythms and minimalist lyrics, and like many of the other songs on this album has the sense of running joyfully right through the song. This song also has some of the most apt drumming on the album. "I was wrong, you were right".
- Who Loves Life More? (3:26)
The other slower song on the album, Who Loves Life More? is jerkier than Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore. There's a dreamlike, stayed-up-all-night feel to the song, aided by the lyrics which talk about such things in a somewhat confused and disordered matter. Tension builds through the encompassing feel of the song, making its mark with repetition and a drawn-out vocal style.
- Reach Out (3:28)
A distorted, jangly riff opens this straightforward song. Jerky chord changes and prominent drumming at mid-tempo underly the bulk of the song, with smooth riffs entering in during the bridge. The vocals are very well harmonised and the lyrics include many repetitions of the title. Towards the end of the song, the instruments stretch their legs and play a subtly changing backdrop which is very interesting to listen to.
- Fade Away (4:46)
This reflective closer has a broad, expansive feel and possibly the most intelligent lyrics on the album. The lyrics reflect on originality and making it in the music business, a topic that the members of Sloan are well familiar with, seeing as when they were new they were pegged by their label to be the next Nirvana. Grunge was not their path, however, and they ended up leaving to strike out (at least partially) on their own. "A carbon-copy we could have been..." The second half of the song features interesting soloing while the rest of the band falls into the thick, catchy groove that permeates the song, drawing everything to a satisfying close.
Sloan have never been afraid of letting their influences show, and this record is no exception. Nevertheless, their exuberant ingenuity in arrangement and lyrics stamps this album with a clear sense of identity, leading to a refreshingly enjoyable listening experience.
This writeup is copyright 2004 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/ .