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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 Riverfront Times asks Will Johnson exactly what the difference between Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel and his solo work is.

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.

Another trailer for The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Out April 29!

np – The Radio Dept. / Lesser Matters

By : Frank Yang at 9:15 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. information leafblower says:

    I love love love Between The Bridges. So best.

  2. Knox says:

    I still love Smeared. So visceral. I still remember when I saw Sloan play a High School auditorium in Moncton when I was like 15. Who knew they’d become part of Canadiana.

  3. bradley says:

    Yay for Merge! It’s about time the Fanclub signed to a North American label who will actually care about them and have realistic expectations. I’m sure I will buy the import anyway if it comes out sooner. I’m a nerd.

  4. Ryan Waddell says:

    I hate Sloan because I listened to 102.1 for extended periods over the last 10 years. And anybody who has listened to that station for any extended periods of time (say, all day at work for example) will hate them, as well as the following bands, simply due to overplaying for CanCon:

    – The Tea Party

    – The Tragically Hip

    – Sum 41

    – Our Lady Peace

    The list really goes on and on and on. Why did I listen to that station so much when it made me hate music? I have no idea. But I don’t listen to it anymore… now I overplay music on my OWN, but instead of saying "Awww man, not THIS song again" when I hear it in public, I say "Man, this song really takes me back" :)

  5. graig says:

    I met Jay through a friend, going to a dance bar and having drinks with him and having some rather personal conversation. He’s sincerely one of the nicest and unpretentious Rock Stars out there. Chris Murphy on the other hand is a little chilly, but in a friendly way.

    Either way, I still respect them, even though I don’t listen to their catalogue that often. I prefer the Super Friendz.

    And thanks for the headphone recommendations, those things rock the shit totally. I’m uber-happy with them and will blog about them later.

  6. pinder says:

    I also like Sloan and still give them a chance anytime they release a new album, but

    Greatest Hits = End of Career

    Even though most Greatest Hits albums are more "contractual obligation" type albums, a case can be made that very few bands that have released a Greatest Hits album have gone on to do anything relevant ever again. For every RHCP or U2 one, there’s a slew of Collective Soul and Pearl Jam Greatest Hits albums.

    But like I said, I’ll still give you a chance to prove me wrong Sloan.

  7. Mike says:

    I will always like Sloan…with regards to the comment about ‘greatest hits package’ meaning the end of their career, well I would have thought that with the double live disc "4 Nights At The Palais Royale’ they put out…I’ve lost the passion I used to have for Sloan, but I still like them…

  8. John says:

    Frank, you bang on. if the last album had been either Twice Removed or One Chord to Another; Sloan would have been looked upon as one of a few CanCon bands that have reached mythical status (ie Copyright) And for the record Live at A Sloan party should rerelease and how. Transona 5 / On the road again is top draw.

    Also Frank, any comments on the new Doves, the Wilco tour Ep and the Dylan bootleg you’ve got listed?