Bands that last more than a decade together are running on one of two kinds of fuel. Rare is the nuclear burn of creative energy -- a nagging sense that there's terrain yet to be mapped in a sonic sensibility established long ago. More typical is the band that rolls on thanks to inertia, kicking out stagnant jams and playing the old singles for the fans. Sloan's 10-year odyssey in the backwater of Canadian greatness makes for an odd combination of these two musical dynamics.
On its latest album, Action Pact, Sloan regenerates its classic power-pop sound, but dishes out those Cheap Trick riffs and belted choruses with unusual conviction and verve. Other than some tinkering with trendy alt-rock sonics earlier in their career, the men of Sloan have always seemed more than content to continue stealing ideas from themselves (and their obvious influences), perhaps on the vague theory that further refinements of their songcraft will at some point strike the mother lode of genius. Not so. Action Pact is slick and enjoyable, but its cumulative feel is a bit like, say, taking out the Camaro for one last ride. You can speed down the straightaway, but that old engine won't get you too far. But man, when it goes . . .