Listen to this track by Nova Scotian power pop scensters and Canadian national treasure now based in Toronto, Sloan. It’s “I Hate My Generation”, a key song as taken from their breakthrough second album Twice Removed.
This album was one of a few that helped to draw the spotlight to the fertile East Coast scene of bands centred in Halifax doing interesting work during the early to mid-nineties and at once compared to their American Pacific Northwest counterparts. Yet, the scene had a distinct sound of its own, and with as much diversity when you took a closer listen. Thrush Hermit, Jale, Superfriendz, and Eric’s Trip were a select few other players on that scene from the early to mid-nineties that provided a touchpaper effect in the Canadian music press, if not always setting charts ablaze south of the border.
Although not a single, this tune from Twice Removed sounded like the flagship song to a hard won hit album. It reflects that struggle of trying to find a voice when all those around were clamouring for the same old thing. It’s also something of an anthem of that hated generation, too.
In terms of that struggle, Sloan fought pretty hard against their American label’s (Geffen) mandate for them to play grunge and shut up. They cut this record instead, which is a showcase for their four-way songwriting influences that include The Beatles, David Bowie, and numerous new wave bands. It was a hit record in this country, and still managed to do some business in the states, too. Geffen still refused full promotion, and dropped them. Perhaps significantly, it’s regularly listed as one of the greatest albums ever produced in Canada, which perhaps shows how short-sighted their label was. Significantly too, maybe the title Twice Removed reflects the story of a band who wanted to create their second album their way, even in the face of defying their label, and the ensuing consequences to wit; removal.
But, if this was the case it’s pretty secondary. This song resonated with me and with other listeners then because in 1994, our generation was where the millenials are now; adrift in an era when life-changing technology was on the rise as the cultural and economic moorings of the previous generation were losing their grip. We had to redefine the future for ourselves as paradigms began to shift.
In the meantime, we were smashed together in outdated one-size-fits-all career paths and expected to follow the same route our Baby Boomer parents followed, even though by then the road was not quite as straight or smooth as it once was. In the song, the opening lines “What could you both possibly share?” can be applied to those two generations of people. The technology and economies driven by it were just beginning to shift by then, but cultural expectations (as always) were slow to adapt. At the time, many of us felt like we’d been hoodwinked. We’d done what we’d been asked of us by the culture, and came out of school wondering why there wasn’t anything waiting for us at the end of it all as there had been for our parents. That’s a good reason to hate your generation.
More positively, it was the “we both play guitar” that seemed to answer the question for me of what we all could possibly share in this song. This may be applied again to the struggles the band were going through with their label, with false comparisons to other bands being thrust upon them. But at the time, it felt like a call to listeners instead; that we make our own rules by using common tools. This song always sounded and felt like an anthem to the passion and a drive to community that was the real engine to our generation. From that passion and emphasis on community, the twenty-first century was birthed, carried along on the golden carriage of the Internet and digital technology. Even today, “I Hate My Generation” still sounds like a cry of protest and defiance, yet also immensely empowering at the same time. Never even have to say a word. That’s the best thing that I ever heard.
Sloan are an active band today. Learn more about their musical journey and efforts at sloanmusic.com.
For more about the Halifax scene in the nineties, read this fine article.