The Sam Roberts Band is famous in Canada. They have won Juno Awards, charted at number one and sold a million records! Their last album Love at the End of the World wooed a greater expanse of North America as the Montreal-bred road dogs crisscrossed the U.S. behind a high-energy rock show and Roberts’ acclaimed guitar work. When recording their new album Collider, Roberts decided to challenge the band by moving the process to Chicago. Instead of recreating the searing rock n’ roll vibe of their live show, Roberts pushed forward in an attempt to expand and diversify the band’s sound. Califone percussionist Ben Massarella and Antilbalas woodwind player Stuart Bogie served as honorary band members during the recording process and allowed the band to branch out in search of a more refined, cohesive sound.
Album opener “The Last Crusade” breathes with these new additions by sporting lite funk tremors and lyrical horn workouts. Collider has a bounce that previous albums lacked. Collider’s collaboration appears to have downplayed Roberts’ guitar hero status, using his six string as a textural element instead of high lighting searing solos.
The way Robert’s soothing and ear catching melodies liquefy from the tightly constructed instrumentation conveys a hopeful yet reflective mood across the album. Interlocking communication breathes within traditional rock structures, anchoring the band’s expansion within familiar territory. There are ear candy melodies inside the mid tempo shuffle of “Without a Map”, a little more Tom Petty than guitar hero.
Acclaimed indie rock producer Brian Deck’s (Modest Mouse, Ugly Casanova, Gomez) work appears to have unified the band behind these deceptively unique grooves where Bogie’s woodwind runs riff off James Hall’s pure bass work. The mood occasionally recalls some of Pinback’s lush power as songs ripple forward with a focus and richness that pulls the listener close.
“Longitude” is locked down by a sturdy bass and drum charge before crisp and delicate guitar phrases lighten the mood. This laid back guitar approach continually rings true with restrained power as Robert’s sing “Some people live in a dream/Some people live on their knees/You’ve got nowhere to go, cause you’re already home”
The album’s best track may be the twitchy white boy grooves of “Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises)” whose uplifting chorus resonates and dances with warm melody. Horns, woodwinds and xylophones shake hands, forming a crystal clear harmonic curtain. The album finishes appropriately with the cathartic release of “Tractor Beam Blues” where Roberts throws his head back and lets the lyrical ruminations go. Collider’s creative pop rock pays off.