Sloan took a completely different approach from the production style of its previous albums this time around, working together on tracks for more than a year rather than coming together for three days of studio time with a “you play this how I wrote it” attitude. Thus, Pretty Together should have been the band’s best album to date. It is certainly its most cohesive, sounding like the first album coming from an actual band, in striking contrast to Between the Bridges, which sounded more like four compiled EPs than anything else. The result here is more derivative than spectacular, however, with Sloan wearing its influences on its collective sleeve as much as ever.
Throw in some arena rockers and a few ballads and there you have it — it’s the standard formula that we’ve all heard before, but with less heart. “If It Feels Good Do It” is, most obviously, “Money City Maniacs” revisited. The understanding of “The Life of a Working Girl” seems a bit forced and insincere; Chris Murphy seems more comfortable with the apathetic tone taken by “The Other Man,” which is a logical progression from the character he developed in “Chester the Molester” from Navy Blues.
But to get past all that, and then to hear stunners such as those written by Jay Ferguson or Patrick Pentland, leaves the listener pulled from side to side, not really knowing what to think. On one side, there is the Paul Stanley-biting “Pick it Up and Dial It,” which is simply uncomfortable, but then there are songs such as the genuine “Dreaming of You” and “It’s In Your Eyes.”
More often than not, though, Pretty Together feels like the band members have stopped writing songs that actually say something on this album. There are a few saving graces, but, in the end, fans will be left feeling unfulfilled and newcomers will be wondering what all the fuss is about.
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