The Resurrection of Sloan
Last summer, I was driving to university, or to work, or somewhere I can’t remember. Either way, in a rare occurrence I had the radio playing on an unnamed station during the noon hour in which the said station only plays ‘90s rock music during that hour.
As one song finished, the next one began playing and before any instrumentation began, I heard the line “She was underwhelmed, if that’s a word / I know it’s not ‘cause I looked it up / That’s one of the skills I learned in my school.” As the instruments kicked in and the song continued to play, I knew I had heard it many years ago but couldn’t put my finger on who the band was.
“That was Sloan?!”, I thought to myself. In all my ignorance, I only knew of a handful of radio singles by the band and knew that I wasn’t a huge fan, with the exception to Coax Me, and thought the band was a little overrated. I had never given them a fair chance.
I decided to do some research and discovered that Sloan had quite a vast catalogue, with several albums having very different s
ounds. The album with Underwhelmed by the name of Smeared was their debut album from 1992. They were dubbed the Canadian Nirvana when that album was released. Although Smeared was the closest they would ever come to a “grunge” sound, it still did not live up to the supposed Nirvana comparison.
Aside from Underwhelmed, the song that convinced me to purchase the Smeared album was 500 Up. Underwhelmed is a dizzying display of witty humour about a boy who’s love for a schoolmate is frustrated by her poor grammar. (If you have not listened to the lyrics of this song, you must do so. Extremely clever and quite funny, but not in a necessarily obvious way: “She said ‘You is funny’ / I said ‘You are funny’ / She said ‘Thank you’ / I said ’Nevermind’”)
500 Up has a more serious tone in terms of lyrics, but the music is what got me. I bought the album and knew that I wanted to get another one. I went on to purchase the entire ‘90s catalogue from Sloan, which contained their critically acclaimed third album, One Chord To Another, which was released in 1996. A
lso in their ‘90s catalogue is their most commercially successful album, Navy Blues released in 1998, which had hits such as Money City Maniacs and She Says What She Means, the latter being one of my favourites by the Canadian rock quartet.
As Sloan’s music progressed, they went from grunge, to power-pop rock to Beatles-influenced rock, most notably on their albums One Chord To Another and Navy Blues. Sloan’s music has indeed evolved from their first album but has always contained the soul of the band’s power-pop rock sound (ie. Sugartune from their debut album, would not find itself out of place on any of their future albums). Something else worth noting is that all four members of Sloan contribute lead and backing vocals, as well as in the song-writing process.
I did myself a favor by giving Sloan a second chance. The radio singles don’t necessarily do the band justice, although most are quite good, there are so many good songs in the band’s library. Do as I did and give Sloan a second (or first) chance, here’s where I’d start:
Top 10 Sloan Tracks: (as selected by myself, in no particular order)
- Underwhelmed (Smeared)
- Coax Me (Twice Removed)
- 500 Up (Smeared)
- She Says What She Means (Navy Blues)
- Iggy & Angus (Navy Blues)
- The Life Of A Working Girl (Pretty Together)
- Snowsuit Sound (Twice Removed)
- The Other Man (Pretty Together)
- Suppose They Close the Door (Navy Blues)
10. Nothing Left To Make Me Stay (One Chord To Another)
Discover, or re-discover Sloan! Tell me your favourites if I have missed any that you enjoy!