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.
Listen to this song by transplanted Halifax indie-rock champions Sloan. It’s their brilliantly realized and clunkily-titled stormer “I’ll-Placed Trust” as taken from their superbly ambitious and accessible album Never Hear the End of It.
Of the great batch of songs on this veritable smorgasbord of classic rock-pop that is the Never Hear the End of It album, this one’s my favourite, awash as it is in glam-pop wah-wah pedals and fuzz guitar. It’s a tricky game when you reference a texture like a wah-wah pedal it seems to me, or when you harken back to a time when rock music was in one of its defining eras – in this case the 1970s. It’s easy to sound as if that’s what you’re trying to do, which often takes away from the material.
But, Sloan are pros, without really sounding slick at the same time. As such, this tune more than comes off. It’s a rocker, a barrage of twisty guitar and throbbing bass. And the drum sound they’re getting on this sounds like the whole band is ganging up on the drum kit. Fantastic!
True: I consider Sloan to be a national treasure, one that is celebrated by too few Canadians, not even to mention how few Americans, Brits, and pretty much anywhere else who have showed an interest in rock- pop music over the last forty years. It’s simple, really. They write their own stuff among the four of them, and put out solid records one after another. Also, in their early days as a group they decided not to play what the record company wanted them to play, and started their own label – Murderrecords. The label still distributes their stuff here, although Yep Roc have signed them and distribute them everywhere else.
Here’s a clipof power-pop revivalists andone-time 90s Halifax scenesters Sloan performing the jaggedly melodic two and a half-minute glory, “The Good in Everyone” taken from their 1996 album One Chord to Another.
These guys are one of my favourite guitar groups, having originally started off in the early 90s as a band marketed as a Canadian maritime answer to a grunge group on their first full length album Smeared. The group formed had their own label Murderecords, through which they would distribute their own material in Canada even up until the present, initially with an EP Peppermint. Yet later they had been signed to the Geffen subsidiary DGC for distribution in the States, a label that was to be a home for the majors who were hungry for non-costumed guitar bands after they’d taken Nirvana from local heroes to international, million selling rock stars.
Yet, what wasn’t acknowledged was that there was a burgeoning scene in Halifax which was just as fertile for unique bands as Seattle, and that the sounds made there were not to be compared to Nirvana or any other band.
Sloan led the charge in the promotion of this scene by putting out great records, along with other bands like Eric’s Trip, Thrush Hermit, Super Friendz, and Jale, all amalgamating their love of classic power pop, British Invasion, 80s US college radio bands, and Marc Bolan and David Bowie glam thrown in for good measure. The band really came out as an independent voice when their follow-up album Twice Removed had the national music papers and the weeklies a buzz in 1994, with singles like “I Hate My Generation” marking a shift toward Beatles-influenced power-pop. But DCG didn’t to promote it in the States, after failing in their attempt to influence the band to make it sound more like a grunge record. Canadian sales sustained them however, and they were back by the next year ready for their next record on their own terms.And with One Chord to Another they gained an American audience anyway, which is the brass ring for bands in Canada, since an audience increases exponentially there when compared to the more sparse Canadian scene. Murderecords was still an active label, later to feature the releases of other artists. The group is currently a Yep Roc act in the States, with Murderecords as a going concern up here in Canada.
One of the things I like about this group is that all four members are songwriters, which makes their albums pretty interesting since you’re getting more than one voice, and often with interesting stylistic subtleties too, from song to song. For a lot of bands, this would usually spell disaster. Yet for these guys, it’s worked since 1992. My recommendations record-wise, beyond the albums I’ve already mentioned here of course, is their thirty track Never Hear the End of It disc, which really highlights this quality the band offers. Each song leads into another, not unlike the Abbey Road Medley in places, with a sort of vibe that the guys were really having fun knocking out simple, yet tuneful songs in various styles that don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a punchy, fun, and sonically varied album, which really encapsulates this band as a whole.
Their new album, Parallel Play is out now. Check out the Sloan MySpace page to preview new tracks and hear some old ones too.
And take a look at the Sloan bio page on the Yep Roc site to learn about the new album.