Great music is often born in obscurity, and, at least in this country, that's where it usually dies. Thankfully, the members of Sloan
reside in Canada (where they're stars), which has afforded savvy Americans the opportunity to enjoy their steady stream of great albums. While united by rich melody and vocal harmonies, the band's discography is expansive, covering everything from hip-thrusting arena rock cadged from old Cheap Trick albums to simmering Beatles/Big Star pop and eclectic, offbeat alt-rock balladry. The key to its wide-ranging sound is an unusual writing arrangement in which all four members (even the drummer!) contribute songs. The band has produced seven albums featuring a little something for everyone while still forging a style distinctly its own. This also helps explain the disappointment of Sloan's latest, Action Pact
, where the band works with a producer -- Ratt fan Tom Rothrock (Elliott Smith, Badly Drawn Boy) -- for the first time in a decade. Rothrock shepherds these musicians into a muddy, monolithic sound that might be the hardest-rocking album they've released but is also lacking in their usual -- and enjoyably supple -- sonic diversity.