Friday, March 11th, 2005
One Chord To Another
Funny thing about Sloan – while they seem to be like unto indie/college rock cult heroes in the US, they’re equally loved and loathed here in their native Canada. Okay, maybe loathed is too strong a word (but it was alliterative), but they’re one of the few acts that have crossed over from indie icons to mainstream successes in this country with any sort of longevity, and the backlash in some circles is pretty virulent and amusing.
You don’t have to look too hard to find someone who would sooner gnaw off their own leg before giving up their copy of Twice Removed or One Chord To Another (especially the rare Enclave pressing!), but will slag off Between The Bridges or Navy Blues with the sort of venom usually reserved for baby smotherers or puppy kickers. Myself, I think they’ve gotten kind of formulaic and safe in recent years, but there’s always at least a few moments of pop genius on any of their albums (usually courtesy of Jay Ferguson) although the proportion of those versus 70s-ish arena rockers has skewed in the wrong direction of late and I can’t pretend I’ve gotten genuniely excited about a new Sloan album in some time… but I still care.
To back up a bit to the love/hate phenomenon – I suspect that Sloan’s biggest crime, at least to those who believe they’ve committed one, is that they stuck around. If they had actually split up following Twice Removed (recently voted best Canadian album of all-time by Chart readers), and maybe released One Chord To Another posthumously or something, their place as gods in the Canadian music pantheon would have been assured. They’d have been legends. But no, they committed that cardinal indie sin and they got big. They made money (I assume so, anyway, relatively speaking). They dared to make albums that while solid, didn’t reach the same heights as their greatest works.
Another theory is that for people my age, Sloan was “it” during my musical coming-of-age over a decade ago, at least of homegrown talent, and Lord knows it’s not cool to like anything you liked when you were 15. Or maybe they just let themselves become too familiar and have thus bred contempt. Sloan sightings around town are commonplace (I’ve only seen Jay and Chris Murphy, myself) so maybe it’s just a case of instead of thinking, “hey there’s the guy who wrote ‘Snowsuit Sound’!”, it’s, “hey, there’s the guy who spilt a drink on me last weekend!”. Or not. I dunno. For the record, no member of Sloan has ever spilt anything on me, I’m just thinking out loud.
Anyway, it’s hard to believe that the band has been around for some 12 or 13 years now. I remember the drama, the gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands and rending of clothes when they announced they were splitting a decade ago after Twice Removed, though that turned out to be record company politics to get out of their deal with DGC. However, there’s naught better to remind you of how old something is than a retrospective… and it’s Sloan’s turn. Chris and Jay talked to MTV about their forthcoming best-of compilation CD/DVD set, A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005, coming out May 10 and featuring the obligatory two new tracks to infuriate collectors (though the DVD should help make the best-of’s purchase worthwhile). They also reveal that their US label Koch will be re-releasing all their albums (excluding Action Pact and presumably 4 Nights At The Palais Royale) later this year in an expanded format with rarities and b-sides to fill out each of their first five albums which are apparently a pain to find in the US.
I wonder if these will be available up here? After all, it’s their US label that’s releasing them and all of Sloan’s back catalog is available here for super-cheap. Even with the bonuses, it may be a hard sell getting folks to pay import prices for an album they either already have or can pick up at Sunrise for $8. To support, or maybe just because they haven’t done so in a while, Sloan are touring across Canada in May. No Toronto date yet, but they’ve only announced as far as Saskatchewan so far.
Why does Merge rule? Because they’re giving the new Teenage Fanclub record Man-Made a North American release on June 7 and the band will tour our fair continent to support. YAY. Thanks to Catbirdseat for the tip-off.
The Ames Tribune talks to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, who release their new album The Sunset Tree on April 26 and play what I believe is their first-ever Toronto show at Lee’s Palace on May 11, tickets $11. Be there be there be there.
The last two links were brought to you by the letter Q, the number 4 and Largehearted Boy.
np – The Radio Dept. / Lesser Matters