Sam Roberts and his band made a big splash with their 2008 release Love at the End of the World. That album’s themes examined the deteriorating state of the earth and its impact on society although it was easy to ignore those warning thanks to the infectious melodies created by Roberts.
Collider addresses some of these issues but is more focused on creating a new musical direction for the band, and band it is. Collider makes it official as it is credited to the Sam Roberts Band.
Although Roberts continues to writes the music and act as lead singer he’s actively worked to create a collaborate unit. Sam Roberts Band signifies the cohesiveness of the group think in the studio and on stage. In an effort to create a more “groove and rhythm oriented record” Roberts brought in producer Brian Deck, who has worked with Modest Mouse, Gomez, and Iron and Wine. Deck simplifies the band’s sound by stripping away it’s penchant for multiple overdubs replacing them with new instruments. Also pared back is Roberts’ electric guitar. In its place is a horn section, lots of funky rhythms and weaves of acoustic guitar. This approach allows each instrument the space to make its individual dramatic impact.
To create this fresh sound several new players are brought into the mix. Recruited for the album is woodwind and sax player Stuart Bogie of Antibalas, an Afrobeat Orchestra. He provides a funky sax on the opening track “Last Crusade.” Also on that track is a sweltering rhythms section created by South African-influenced guitar grooves and percussion by Califone band member Ben Massarella. The pair also appears on “Let It In,” “Graveyard Shift,” and “Streets of Heaven.” What these songs have in common is that redefined sound that borrows a bit from Robert’s past work while pushing it to new horizons. Roberts’ music has borrowed global elements before but never as pronounced as here. Another rare element for the band is the inclusion of female vocals – Elizabeth Powell – on “Longitude.” Deck also encourages the band’s ability to jam live in studio, resulting in several great moments including the long blues jam of “Let It In.”
Roberts’ lyrical themes are often relationship based but he uses political, geographic, and scientific metaphors to describe emotional states. “Without a Map” and “Longitude” are examples of this. Sam Roberts, as a fan of sci-fi, throws in a few tips of the hat to the genre including the title and cover of the disc which refers to the Hadron super collider.