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Sloan – Don’t You Believe A Word

Toasty Taranna #27: Sonic Boom #11: Sloan Don’t You Believe A Word

Well here’s a no-brainer purchase for Aaron! SLOOOO-OOOOAAAAAN!! This 3-track UK single has some fun stuff on it. First up is the title track, off the mighty 2000 album Between The Bridges. It’s breezy, full of that sweet 70s rockin’ harmonizing, and just damn glorious. I love how restless all the instruments are – throw on the good headphones and try it.

The other two tracks were both b-sides for Between The Bridges, appearing on the Japanese release of BTB and this UK single. Much later, they also appeared on the B-Sides Win compilation. Anyway, Summer’s My Season is a slow, organ-lead ballad, and At The Edge Of The Scene is a jangly full-on Sloan rocker with definite 60s fun leanings.

Hit It Or Quit It? SLOOOO-OOOOOAANNNN!

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Sloan – 12

HAPPY CANADA DAY, EVERYONE!

 

It seemed appropriate to drop this blurb on Canada Day. Superb CanCon!

This is probably the longest I’ve ever gone without yelling WAHOO! about a new Sloan record. This one dropped back in early April, and I was a first-day buyer. So why didn’t I review it then? Well, I had so much from multiple Toronto trips to cover, for starters…

But I have been listening to the record all this time, in and around all my other listening because Sloan. The title of this album is 12 because this is their 12th album. Original, sure, and basically notice that if you don’t know Sloan’s sound by now this album may be a revelation to you. If you know their sound already, guess what! It’s Sloan! YAY!

These are all strong songs, in that inimitable and cohesive Sloan sound and style. Big jangly guitars, awesome vocal harmonies, whip-smart and clever wordplay lyrics… For me, at this point having been a fan since seeing them in concert on the Twice Removed tour in the fall of 1993, and a first-day buyer ever since, every new Sloan album (this one included) feels just like coming home. The world is aligned correctly on its axis when I hear new Sloan songs. I love that they are still out there, doing their thing, and that they have remained true to their sound and ideals and only ever release quality.

I’ve been through this one countless times and I can’t find any fault with it. In fact, there are so many moments to love that I would be surprised if they didn’t end up with about half of the album as singles. A radio DJ could just hit Play on this thing and walk away for 40 minutes and their switchboard would light up with calls from folks wanting more info on all those great tunes!

It rocks, it’s beautiful, it seems simple but only because the intricacies are so adroitly handled that all we can do is appreciate the genius that is Sloan.

SLOOOOO-OOOOOOANNNNNNN!!!!

 

***

Bonus Sloan Geek Information Section:

As we all know by now: Not only does everyone in the band play all the instruments and sing (this is so cool), at varying points, but Sloan has also perfected the art of band democracy when it comes to songwriting. Each of the four main members get three songs they’ve wrote on the album, therefore a 12 song album. 12 songs on their 12th album. Brilliant. I’m at the point now where I can pretty much correclty identify who wrote what, just based on sound and approach, but for those who like this sort of information, here’s how this one balances out (with track numbers):

Chris Murphy wrote Spin Our Wheels (1), Don’t Stop (If It Feels Good Do It) (7), and Wish Upon A Satellite (11).

Patrick Pentland wrote All Of The Voices (2), The Day Will Be Mine (5), and Have Faith (9).

Jay Ferguson wrote Right To Roam (3), Essential Services (6), and The Lion’s Share (10).

Andrew Scott wrote Gone For Good (4), Year Zero (8), and 44 Teenagers (12).

Sloan – The Rest Of My Life

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 22: Sonic Boom #5 Sloan – The Rest Of My Life Promo CD

OK, you all know I love Sloan. So, same as with the past two days’ Tragically Hip posts, wherein I paid a lot for songs I already owned, this Sloan post is no different. Yup, this is a one track (album version) single for The Rest Of My Life, the brilliant single from 2003’s Action Pact. James and I saw Sloan on this tour, and we even met Chris Murphy after the show.* 

Anyway, this one was priced at $7.99, but there is no track listing on the back cover to say whether it had any other tracks on it or not. I had the Sonic Boom Man open up the anti-theft casing and we looked and it was just the one track. He felt a bit bad charging $8 for one song, so he knocked it down to $5.99. Thank you, helpful Sonic Boom Man! Another instant purchase because Sloan. And Discogs, at the time of this writing, only has one copy available, for just over $15 CAD, so it’s all fine by me!

I have one more story about this song, which I’ve already told in my tale of seeing Sloan in Meaford in 2011. I was the only one on my feet for the gig (it was a weird show, with the whole crowd sitting throughout), and while they were playing this song and they got to the (now-classic) line “one thing I know about the rest of my life / I know that I’ll be living it in Canada!” Chris Murphy looked right at me (how could he not as I was the only one dancing) and smiled a big grin at me and for that couple of seconds we both knew the truth of that line, and the power of this song (and Sloan in general). Proud Canucks, eh!

Here, give the track a spin. Listen to the words. Think about it! Crank it!

 

* Holy crap am I ever skinny in that picture. That was a few weeks after my wedding to my lovely wife. Jeez that was 15 years and a lot of pounds ago. Hm. I know I could stand to lose a few, but I’m sure I wouldn’t wanna go back to quite that skinny again!

SLCR #311 – Sloan (April 6, 2018)

Seven Sloan shows in, and I pretty much know what to expect at this point. It’ll be really good. They’ll trade instruments a few times. Chris will lead the crowd in yelling SLOOOOOOOOOOAN. They won’t play as many songs that I know as I’d like; of course, there’s a simple solution to this problem, but educating myself is more time-consuming and less immediately gratifying than complaining on the internet.

So here we are. I’m listening to their greatest hits for the umpteenth time and I gave away the entire review in the first paragraph. Since we all know what we’re getting here, let’s talk about what’s new this time out; namely, Sloan’s new album, 12, which came out on the day of our show. You’ve got all of Canada to pick from and your de facto album release party is in Regina? I mean, I guess it doesn’t matter, they were still selling the album at the handful of live shows before ours on this tour and it’s 2018 and you’re just going to stream it anyway. Plus they didn’t really do anything to mark the occasion, at least on stage. Via Instagram, I learned they had album-release cake on their bus. That’s nice. Cake is nice. Anyway, I listened to the album before the show because sometimes I do things that make sense but you shouldn’t ever rely on it. My very short review is that it definitely sounds like Sloan. Nothing stands out above the rest but everything is good. This bodes well for its staying power. It feels like the kind of album where I’ll pick a different favourite song every time out.

The venue isn’t new but it was new to me. The Turvey Centre is a big ol’ hall on the outskirts of town (or just outside of town maybe?) and we’d never been to a concert (or anything else) there. I don’t know how many concerts it sees; I’d never even heard of one being held there before. It looks like they host a lot of conventions and weddings and whatnot. Functionally, it was a lot like when we saw Joel Plaskett at the WA WA Shrine Centre, with long cafeteria-style tables and a stage at one end. It’s bigger than the Shrine Centre but not nearly as ornately decorated, so if you’re looking to book a venue in Regina, you need to think hard about how many people you’re hosting, whether they can easily get out of downtown, and how much they enjoy fancy wallpaper in the bathrooms.

We met up with Mark and Arlette at the entrance and found our way in. We immediately lost Mika who bolted for the stuff table, though since she’d already ordered the new album (the fancy bundle with the watch and poster), there wasn’t anything she was interested in. I was intrigued to hear of the t-shirt bucket, with its assorted shirts in assorted sizes from assorted past tours, but not enough to go take a look for myself.

At other shows on this tour, there was no opener. Here, I think there actually was – a local cover band. If they did play, we didn’t see them, and I don’t remember their name, so… yeah. As is protocol, I’ll assume they were really good. Whoever they were.

Mika and I went down to the front when Sloan took the stage right at 9:00. Twitter is ruining our society but at least it lets bands tell you when they’re actually going to start. Sloan walked in to a song from Sesame Street; though the lyrics are just a list of numbers, if I say it’s the one that goes “one two three four five, six seven eight nine ten, eleven twelve” you know exactly which one I mean. They opened with Spin Our Wheels, the first single from the new album, and we were off.

From here, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. The show was split into two sets of probably about a dozen songs each, plus a two-song encore. For playing a lot of stuff I wasn’t familiar with, it seemed like it flew by. I think it ended even more quickly for some folks – it seemed like a surprisingly high number of people took off at intermission. I don’t know why; the sound was good and the band said they were coming back out. Lots of songs from the new album, of course – nearly the whole thing. Only a handful of singles, including Losing California, Who Taught You to Live Like That, If It Feels Good Do It, and The Good in Everyone. No Underwhelmed, but that’s a given and I know better than to expect it. Somehow I’m now 1-for-7. I checked. It’s a bit weird that there are some hits that they rarely seem to play (at least when I’m there) but there are others that you hear every time out like The Other Man or The Rest of My Life. The Other Man isn’t even that good apart from how badly it irritates Aaron and that only counts for so much when he’s not there.

So like I said (several times, because I don’t know that many different words), this was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. Which isn’t a bad thing when you’re expecting a good thing. Would go again, as if that decision was mine to make.

UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• Donovan Woods w/Wild Rivers (April 29)
• “Weird Al” Yankovic w/Emo Philips (June 1)
• BA Johnston w/Johnny 2 Fingers & The Deformities (June 15)
• The Flaming Lips (June 22)
• Gateway Festival feat. Kathleen Edwards, John K. Samson, Elliott BROOD, Big Sugar, Terra Lightfoot, Yukon Blonde, The Kentucky Headhunters, Chixdiggit, William Prince, Library Voices, more (July 27-28)
• Arkells (August 2)
• Regina Folk Festival feat. Neko Case, Tanya Tagaq, more (August 11)
• Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls (September 12)
• Crash Test Dummies (October 11)
• Hawksley Workman & the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (April 13, 2019)

A Gift From Geoff!

Yesterday, a parcel arrived at our KMA eastern offices from the illustrious and awesome Geoff of 100albumsin10years! Oh yes, a parcel of much goodness…

Inside was a note:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OMG. This contains three of my favourite things: Sloan, GBV, and COMMUNITY!

First up, the Sloooooaaaaann…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out that handsome ‘Navy Blues Brother.’ Yessir, that’s Sloan’s Andrew Scott on the cover of this May 1998 issue of Chart magazine. Inside the mag is a five-page article called Sloan: Fantastic 4, about the band and the new (at the time) album, Navy Blues, which is a rocker for sure, and there’s a bio page of the band to-date as well. Hot damn! There’s a ton of other stuff in this mag too, which I’ll surely cover in a later post, but right now I’m reading about Sloan so that other stuff will have to wait!

And then, tucked into the mag, to mark the page of the Slooooaaan article (natch), was a 7″ record. Oh yes.

[click the shite photeys to embiggen them…]

Guided By Voices – Planet Score b/w Zero Elasticity

Limited to 1000 copies, and including a free download of the tracks, this 7″ contains Planet Score and Zero Elasticity from the excellent 2014 album Motivational Jumpsuit.

This is thrilling on a couple of levels. One, I am a huge Guided By Voices fan and will always happily welcome any of their releases into my collection. And two, for years I have consciously skipped trying to collect the 7″ output by this band. There are soooo many, I mean, they put out about six albums a year for a decade and a half, and each record gets at least a couple of 7″ singles… That said, I always look at them longingly in the shoppes… and now here is one in my house! It’s GORGEOUS!

Geoff. THANK YOU. You’re always verbalizing the positive on your excellent site, and you’re sharing the greatness by mail too!

COMMUNITY!

Sloan – Kids Come Back Again At Christmas / December 25

Another day of pause in the IOU Series… I know! I will get back to it. But today involves another of my favourite blogging things:

Gratitude!

And this post also counts as Christmas 2016: Part 2!

***

Herein lies a tale:

For some reason, I’ve had issues with the Sloan emailing list. I don’t get the emails (which is kinda the point), and I know I am signed up properly. Hm.

Now, as you all know, I’ve already noted several times in these pages that James is an internet wizard, and he has managed to procur for me copies of several of these limited edition Sloan releases, over the years. In fact, thanks to James, my lovely wife, and my Mom, I currently own all of the limited Sloans! It’s a streak I would love to see unbroken!

So. It seems that James properly receives the Sloan emails. And so he emailed me a while back, did I know about the new Sloan Christmas single, going on sale in early November (2016)?

Huh? What? NO! I WANTS ONE!

He said he’d get one for me, as he was ordering for himself. Awesome. And then, typical James, he wouldn’t take cash monies for it, saying “Merry Christmas” instead. Dude. Duuuuuude.

I have, many times, told you all that James rocks… He sure does. Oh man.

And what a thing of beauty this 45 is. It contains (copied from the official Sloan site):

  • 2 brand new original Sloan Christmas compositions
  • “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas” & “December 25”
  • Seasonal red translucent 7″ vinyl single
  • 4 holiday greeting cards featuring Andrew Scott wintery collages and red envelopes
  • Digital download of both songs
  • Ltd. edition of only 500 copies

The songs are awesome. You can hear them  HERE  and  HERE.

Man, Patrick looks so different in that video for Kids… grizzly! And Jay is still using his trusty Tele Thinline. Awesome. I really like Chris’ vocals on this one, and Andrew’s drumming is totally him. And I totally love December 25. Could it be any more perfectly Sloan? No. These guys have a knack for taking the sum of their parts and making a whole that sounds wholly like themselves. So great. Quite influenced by all their OCTA work recently too, methinks. Beautiful tune.

I dig the greeting cards, too. Andrew’s artwork is lovely, and the greetings are fun:

“Drink Up To Your Health”* (Merry Merry One And All!)
“I’m just walking around, I made that snowsuit sound!”^ (Happy Holidays To You And Yours)
“We’re here waiting for you, baby!”~ (Warmest Greetings Of The Season)
“I’ll be there with bells on!”+ (Wishing You Peace And Joy!)

* from A-Sides Win
^ from Snowsuit Sound
~ from Everything You’ve Done Wrong
+ from Bells On

In Sum:

James. Jaaaaaaaaaaaames. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

 

 

PS: This is the info blurb from the official Sloan web site about this release, for those who want more straight from Jay:

What did you find yourself doing on the hottest day of this past summer? Hanging at the beach? Going for a swim? Relaxing with a book under a tree? Having a tall cool drink by the pool? How about standing in front of a microphone with sleigh bells and singing about snowballs, sleighs and Christmas day? That’s the position we found ourselves in this past August while recording a brand new 7” single of 2 original Christmas songs. I think It’s safe to say that it was a challenge, but we still managed to get into the holiday spirit while it was 39 degrees (that’s 102 degrees fahrenheit, American friends) outside the studio.

We’ve tried our hand at Christmas recordings before. In 2011 “The Twelve Days of Christmas” got an elaborately musical treatment that would have made Perry Como do a Hollywood style double-take, while Slade’s “Merry X-Mas Everybody” got a rocking tribute in 2012 commandeered by Patrick on lead vocals.  This year we decided to add 2 original songs to the canon of holiday fare. On Side A, Chris, with Patrick harmonizing along side, takes the lead on his galloping, acoustic driven future-holiday-classic “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas”. On Side B, I contributed a snowy piano song suitable for a slow skate called “December 25”. Thanks as well to our Gregory Macdonald for adding his touch of seasonal splendour to these recordings.

Andrew chimed in with the wintery collage artwork found on the 7” cover and the 4 Christmas cards that come with this package. The cards feature seasonal messages inside in the form of lyrics from our catalogue. Some miiiight be a stretch, but hopefully the merry sentiment remains intact and your relatives and recipients won’t be puzzled!

One final note: as a tribute to our One Chord To Another album that we’ve been celebrating this year, the drums on these new songs were recorded direct to 4-track cassette just as we did with that album 20 years ago. I’m not sure if Chris’ or my engineering skills have improved since 1996, but I still think they sound kinda cool. 

I’ve added more blank C-90 cassettes to my Xmas wish list.

From us to you, please have a merry holiday season and a happy new year!

Yo Ho Ho,
Jay F. 
November 2016.

Commonwealth Mystery CD

Every once in a while, I’ll make a CD for my lovely wife to listen to on her commute to work, an hour each way. She often listens to books on CD (signed out from the library), or morning talk shows on the CBC, but she enjoys when I make a music CD too. I am de facto DJ around here. She likes most of what I share, so she happily just lets me have control. Ah wedded bliss.

Of course, being me, it’s never just a normal CD. I’ll talk on them, between songs, tell stories and share music trivia I know she must surely care about as much as I do. And many times, I have only ever marked it Mystery CD, with the day’s date, so that she has to listen to find out what I’ve done. Those mystery CDs can be an album, and then it’s a game of Name That Band. Or they’re a mix, and it’s Name The Theme.  She has a whole case of these CDs in the car, over the years.

See how much I love her? She’s a lucky lady.

Yesterday, I made her a CD for the car and put it with her purse for this morning’s drive. All I wrote on the front was Commonwealth. Savvy KMA Readers will already know it was the (completely superb) new Sloan CD.

Later in the day, we were texting, and I asked what she thought about the CD. She said she really liked it. Who was it? She couldn’t guess.

Oh dear.

Understand, a lot of Sloan gets played in this house. She surely knows these guys, even as a passive listener over the years, better than some of their fans do. I was quite surprised she couldn’t figure it out.

When she got home tonight, I asked her how she hadn’t know it was Sloan. She said it certainly sounded Beatles, and then a bit later there were those songs that were “jangly and metal sounding like you [I] like.” She then said she didn’t think I’d give her Sloan, I’d choose “something more obscure instead.”

So, she’d convinced herself it wasn’t Sloan but then was at a loss as to whom it could be. She was laughing at herself, because if she’d just read the front of the CD, she’d have known for sure it was them.

Apparently, they’re not as recognizable to her as I’d thought. I’ll have to work on that. I also don’t know if this is a comment on the Commonwealth album itself, or if she hasn’t actually been paying attention all these years. Or maybe she’s just exhausted and not really up for a guessing game today. My vote would be for the latter, as (to me) that album is completely recognizeable as them, and I would doubt she hasn’t been paying attention. She’s a very attentive person.

So, tomorrow, she’s going to rock it again, but this time with the knowledge for sure that it’s Sloan. I’ll get her review of it tomorrow!

Sloan – Commonwealth

Disclaimer Before We Begin: 

I know it’s all meant in good fun, but if we could please now refrain from the Sloan bashing that’s for the sake of trying to get a rise out of me, that would be much appreciated. It’s really not that funny anymore, and this is an important release for me. If you do have a legitimate complaint about this record, that’s fine please voice it, but if it’s just for shits and giggles, please leave it out. Thank you.

The Preamble:

Any new Sloan release is an exciting time for me. I’ve been following this band for a long time now, buying their records on release day and seeing the shows (5 times now) for years, so I would count myself as a big fan. To me, no conversation about Canadian rock is complete without adding these guys into the mix in a big way. After over twenty years doing this, they are ingrained in the fabric now, important.

This album is their 11th studio effort and, in that typically Sloan way, it has a cool concept. It’s already well-established that Sloan operates on a democracy system that’s rare in rock. They all write songs for the records, they all sing, and they’ve all played all the instruments. Such egalitarianism, while maintaining a consistent band sound that makes them instantly recognizable, makes them even more incredible.

And the cool concept this time? Well, this album was really meant to be owned on vinyl, I figure. You see, each band member wrote songs for the album, same as ever, but each gets his own side of vinyl. The double-record captures that perfectly. And each member is a King (Commonwealth, get it) in the deck of cards, they really are four of a kind. But even my CD copy plays as a coherent album. It’s all good, I just think the vinyl was the the plan, here.

Also, just to avoid repeating myself for all 15 tracks here, let me just say that that inimitable and instantly recognizable Sloan sound is in full, glorious effect. You know the one I mean. Oh yes.

OK, so are you ready? Let’s give ‘er!

The Album:

SIDE ONE: Diamond (Jay)

We’ve Come This Far is a sweet jam with a brilliant guitar line. Jay’s love of pop shines through.

You’ve Got A Lot On Your Mind picks up the pace for a great pop rocker. I loved all of this.

Three Sisters, a lovely piano-based ballad, includes a slinky bass line and those sweet harmonies that are Sloan’s bread and butter.

Cleopatra zaps the speed back up for a superb, peppy rocker. This one would be awesome in concert! Handclaps and all!

Neither Here Nor There’s gorgeous acoustic guitar perfectly anchors the lyrics. The electric adds perfect colour.

SIDE TWO: Heart (Chris)

Carried Away is typically awesome rock, dripping with Beatles done Sloan-style. This should be a single.

So Far So good slows things down, shifting sounds several times as it builds into an excellent tune all around.

Get Out kicks us back up to a gallop with a swinging, bluesy rocker.

Misty’s Beside Herself is a fun mid-tempo pop tune as only Sloan can do it. Hypnotic.

You Don’t Need Excuses To Be Good is the 70s rock Chris tune we were waiting for – yes! Another one built for radio.

SIDE THREE: Club [they call it Shamrock] (Patrick)

13 (Under A Bad Sign) is a big rocker with a menacing, buzzing guitar. Oh this is so good! The sound here is huge, and at two minutes it’s perfect.

Take It Easy picks right up where 13 (Under A Bad Sign) ended, we’re in the rawk now baby, yeah! That’s one weird feedback/effects-laden noise solo, here.

What’s Inside slows us down for a really trippy, freak-out rock excursion. On first spin, I wondered about this one, but on further spins I’ve realized big picture that it fits in just fine.

Keep Swinging (Downtown) is the first single, and it’s a full-on big guitar riff-lovin’ Sloan rocker (yes!). There are keyboard stabs and a swingin’ (get it?) beat, and a slinky organ line too. It’s a nice touch when the acoustic walks in to close the track out.

SIDE FOUR: Spade (Andrew)

Offering up one 17:49 track for his side, Andrew has written an entire album’s worth of ideas into one track! This is epic!

So much so, I’ll just verbatim copy my sense-writing notes, taken while I listened:

Forty-Eight Portraits has barking dog to drum beat piano noodling resolves to pop rock to ballad bridge to Sloan slinky rock gorgeous harmony washes to slow burner back to rock the Na na na na na’s pop horns to slow dancer blues to kids choir and out on great guitar jam line.

Whew! I really, really liked this track!

In Sum:

This is a completely ambitious, perfectly-realized Sloan record. I’ve only given it three spins, as of this posting, but I was fully sold on the first go-round. Each subsequent listen only cements this further.

INSTANT. SLOAN. CLASSIC.

Ecstatic Announcement!

We interrupt our previously scheduled Series on Edenfest in order to bring you the following ecstatic announcement:

I GOT THE NEW SLOAN TODAY!! Yes! YES! YESSSS!!!

IMAG0843

NEW SLOAN!!!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Rush series with an important news bulletin:

The mighty Sloan will be releasing a new album entitled Commonwealth on September 9th on Yeprock!!

Commonwealth will be a double album, with each of the four band members getting their own side. Done up as four-of-a-kind Kings in a deck of playing cards, the suits go as follows:

Diamond = Jay Ferguson
Heart = Chris Murphy
Shamrock = Patrick Pentland
Spade = Andrew Scott

THERE’S OFFICIAL AUDIO OF ONE OF THE NEW TRACKS RIGHT HERE!!

Oh folks, get ready. New Sloan. NEW SLOAN!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!

POST UPDATE, FOR SCOTT:

SLOOOOOAAAAANNNN!!!! SLOOOOOOOOOAANNNNNN!!!

SLCR #175: Sloan (September 18, 2012)

This marked my fourth time seeing Sloan. Compared to Mika, who guessed that this was somewhere around show #13 for her, I’m still an amateur. I’ll always be older than her, and she’ll always have seen Sloan more times than I have. I wonder if there’s a way we can work on reversing these roles.

At least Sloan was playing in Regina. When they toured last year, they skipped over Regina entirely. The list of past shows on their website suggests that happens more often than not. And lately, it seems bands of all kinds are playing anywhere other than here. Hawksley Workman and Joel Plaskett are both coming to Swift Current (population: 15,503) but bypassing Regina, while Danko Jones has no time for Saskatchewan at all. Not having to make a road trip for this show was a treat.

And I was ready for a treat. After several late nights and one extended workday, I was half-dead going into this show. Mika picked me up at work and I changed out of my work shirt while she drove. She was tired too, and supremely irritated at our cat (Carl, a.k.a. Carly, Carlo, Carlito, Bites McGee, Fights McGee, Flops McGee, Snowball, and/or Shit-for-Brains, among other names) for darting outside repeatedly and making her late in picking me up.

“Late,” here, being a relative term. The doors were at 7:00 and we didn’t arrive at The Pump until almost 8:00, but some delightful friends had beaten us there and saved us seats. The show also didn’t start until somewhere around 9:45, so really, the cat could have spent another hour hiding in the plants and we would have been fine.

I had never been to The Pump before, for good reason – it’s a country bar. A Canadian Country Music Award-winning country bar, no less. I also hear tell that people get the crap kicked out of them there on a regular basis. When I told people about the Sloan show, the response of “eww, The Pump?” was a constant. Of course, Sloan is not a country band, which made this show an odd fit, but then Sloan fans aren’t generally crap-kicker-outers either, so whatever. Maybe there just aren’t any other similar-sized venues left in town now that The Distrikt is closed? Big Sugar is playing at The Pump soon too, as is famed country superstar Everlast; at least he recommended appropriate footwear for the place back in his House of Pain days.

This country bar also had a washroom attendant, or so I was told. I did not see this for myself; I cut myself off after one beer and thus never found myself in the position of paying a man for paper towels and soap.

The opening act consisted of about an hour of guys in Sloan tour jumpsuits futzing about with a ladder and the lighting setup. While this was going on, the country bar treated us to music by the likes of Blur and Guided By Voices. This may have been on par with some of the other opening acts I’ve seen through the years.

When they finally got the lights working and subsequently dimmed them, Mika and I went to go stand up by the front of the stage. I haven’t done that to my poor feet in forever. She pointed out that we may as well, because otherwise, someone tall was just going to stand in front of us anyway. This was sound logic; unfortunately, we didn’t account for the massive bouncer taking a position on the stage next to the speakers. This dude could have blocked out the sun, so shielding Patrick Pentland from our view was no challenge for him. This development was really irritating, but at the same time, it was hilarious and perfect. Of COURSE he’d come along and stand right there for the entire show. Why wouldn’t he?

The bouncer was able to block our view because we, too, were right by one of the giant stacks of speakers. I felt a twinge of sadness when Mika pulled a set of earplugs out of her purse. “I have some more, but they’ve been rolling around in the bottom of my purse for months now,” she said. I am not proud. Earplugs were dusted and ears were plugged.

Just before the show started, I once again got to chat with my neighbours from the apartment. I hadn’t seen them in over a year, and now here they were twice in four days. If I see them next week in Minneapolis, I’m really going think that something is up. I was coherent as I could possibly be, given the earplugs. The crappiness of The Pump as a venue was pointed out to me and I have to agree – the stage is tucked away in one corner, with the aforementioned giant stacks of speakers positioned perfectly to cut sight lines right down.

This was Sloan’s Twice Removed tour – they rereleased the album as a super deluxe vinyl box set, and on this tour, they started each show by performing the album from start to finish. Twice Removed is an album to which I have no nostalgic attachment whatsoever. Two songs from it, Coax Me and People of the Sky, wound up on Sloan’s singles collection, A Sides Win. I had never heard either song before buying said singles collection. I did make a point of listening to some of the album before the show, but it was still largely unfamiliar to me when Sloan played. I liked it fine enough, but even the band kinda made it sound like this was something we all had to get through together before the real show began. “Congratulations, you listened to an entire album in the age of singles,” said Chris Murphy.

Possibly the most notable part of the first set for me was that Murphy played for a while without his trademark massive glasses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without them on before. Without them, he kinda looks like Bill Nye’s rebellious ne’er-do-well younger brother, the one that turned his back on the family business (science, obviously) to pursue dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. “Dad really wishes you’d come back home. There’s a job for you at the science factory.”

The band left the stage for a bit, and someone standing in front of me swiped one of the Twice Removed setlists, revealing the list for the second half of the show. A quick scan revealed no Underwhelmed; I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been going to Sloan shows for almost a decade and they’ve never played the song when I was there. Mika read an interview where the band had talked about retiring the song. I can understand getting really sick of something and not wanting to play it anymore, but this is the same band that regularly plays Theme From George Strombolopolous Tonight and Theme From Future Shop Commercials.

The second set was pretty much a greatest-hits set with a few album tracks from their newest albums mixed in. We did get The Good In Everyone and Money City Maniacs, as expected, along with The Rest of My Life, Losing California, Who Taught you To Live Like That, Unkind, and Everything You’ve Done Wrong.

We also got The Other Man. I tell this story in every Sloan review; I was never a fan of the song until I realized just how much Aaron hates it. Now it’s become one of my favourites, if only because saying so is one of the best ways to bait him into a rage. I bet he’s turning red right now, in fact. I wonder how far I can push this? Guided By Voices might be okay if they had someone to cherry pick the good songs instead of recording and releasing every noise that popped into Robert Pollard’s head. Leonard Cohen should thank k.d. lang for showing the world how good Hallelujah can be when someone sings it properly. Henry Rollins wishes he could write as well as Paul Simon.

While we’re on the subject of anger, there was a blue balloon bouncing around the crowd; this may or may not have had anything to do with the show taking place on keyboardist Gregory Macdonald’s birthday. At one point, a fan spiked the balloon into the rafters, never to be seen again. Well. One scrawny 19-year-old in a red Fred Durst ballcap and muscle shirt (protip, kid: it’s not just a name, it’s a requirement for wearing) spent a good 45 seconds flipping off the balloon spiker. This was serious balloon business.

I appear to have gotten off track.

So! Sloan. Good! Lots of songs that I liked. Had a good time. Yes. For the last song of the evening, Murphy thanked us for coming out and noted how much they like seeing younger fans at shows, but they were ending on an old song. “She was underwhelmed if that’s a word…”

And it was nuts. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reaction like that for one specific song. The whole place went insane – it was as if every single person there had been to four straight Sloan shows without ever hearing this song. It was like being able to see the reaction inside my head. I sang along as loud as I could but wasn’t able to hear my own voice (and I did take my earplugs out for this, which I guess means that Underwhelmed ranks higher than conversing with my ex-neighbours on some sort of scale). I often find it hard to compare shows, but this tipped the scales and made this the best Sloan show I’ve been to. And now it is two days later and I am still sleepy, but we used that as an excuse to order in Indian food last night, so even that’s a win.

Sloan – Live On (promo single)

Picked this up from a used shop online. Apparently, they technically don’t sell these things because it’s illegal, so it was (probably) to their relief that I ordered it.

Nothing fancy, just the album version of the song, and a radio edit which removes a whopping 0:13 from the album version. I didn’t notice which 0:13 it was, exactly. I was too busy rocking out. Whatever, it’s a cool song. Chunky AC/DC-like riff, straight drum beat, and a cowbell! A monster in concert, and it fits the album proper perfectly too. Just a great Sloan track. Deserves constant radio play.

The packaging is standard jewel case (not a thin cardboard crappy one like some promo CDs), with period-matching ‘ghosting’ image of the band on a lovely grey/blue background, and tray sheet too. There’s a little booklet in the lid, as well. The only odd thing is, for a promo CD, it doesn’t mention which album it’s from anywhere in the text. Weird. I mean, as Sloan fans, we all know Action Pact like the back of our hands, but the exclusion of such basic information, when the producers, engineers and mixers get a listing, is odd.

Anyway, as a Sloan fan, I’m glad this artifact washed up on my shores… even if I technically had to participate in illegality to get it. Sorry CRIA, I won’t name names.

Sloan: A Christmas Beauty

Oh internets, let me tell you an amazing story… a Christmas tale to warm the heart of even the most inveterate Scrooge.

You see, I am a Sloan fan. Have been for years (the first show of theirs I saw, which was my introduction to them, was in the fall of 1993). Over the years, I’ve bought all of their records, and seen them in concert five times. I know most of the words to their discography, and surely every note of every song. Their music makes me very happy.

A little while ago the band released an official bootleg vinyl, of a 1993 show in Winnipeg – which, as luck would have it, was from a couple of months before the show I attended on that same first tour mentioned above. For this edition, there were only 300, hand-numbered copies pressed. 25 of those copies would come with an original poster from that tour, golden ticket-style.

Of course, my lovely wife and I spent a good part of the day that it went on sale attempting to buy a copy through the band’s web site. Neither of us could get through, and we were among the many who were fruitlessly jamming the servers. We finally gave up, and without an order placed.

I placated myself, knowing that this was a special release, yes, and I do now have a record player, sure, but it was quite alright to not get one. After all, these rare things are fleeting. Besides, the band posted the tracks for free download the day after the records sold out, and so I managed to get the album in MP3 for free. Still, that’s not anywhere near as cool as having the vinyl, but so be it.

Fast-forward a few weeks and it’s Christmas. James had mailed wonderfully-wrapped parcels for us and our kids, easily on time for the big day. Our gifts to him and his lovely wife remained here until well after Christmas because I am completely disorganized and I suck, but that’s another tale all by itself.

And so came the big day and… well, you can probably see where this is going…

James had got through to the site, that fateful day.

And James sent me a copy of the Sloan vinyl.

Number 95 of 300.

I couldn’t speak. I just stared at it. My lovely wife says she had an inkling of what it was before I opened it, but I honestly had no idea. Sure, the parcel was vinyl-shaped, but it never crossed my mind to even consider this particular album as a possibility. It could have been anything (there are a ton of vinyls I’d like to own). But this…

I had the video camera at hand, and from the throes of my initial shock, I recorded my thanks. A video sent almost immediately to James which, I realized only later, contained an f-bomb. Imagine. James said it was a beautiful f-bomb.

You know, I haven’t opened it, the vinyl. I don’t know if I have a poster or not. James had also got one for his lovely wife, and she didn’t get a poster. Neither did the guy I’m in contact with from the record shop in Kitchener, who also managed to get a copy.

Somehow, I’m not ready to open it yet. It’s just such a beautiful, thoughtful gesture. I still just stare at it… Fine, I’m a geek. I can live with that. And yes, it would drive most people nuts, to not know if there’s a poster in there or not. Oh, I will open it. When I’m ready.

James. Thank you.

Sloan – Meaford Town Hall, 2011-07-21

Just back from a truly great Sloan concert. I mean, the band was AWESOME! But we take that as a given now, don’t we, these 20 years into their awesomeness. And yet, this show was also one of the weirdest rock concert experiences I have ever had. It doesn’t detract from the experience (much), but there were several factors. I’ll explain.

As noted in my previous post, these tickets were a totally brilliant birthday gift from my amazing family, and they were great seats, 8th row on the center aisle. Perfect. Also, my companion this evening, our good buddy Craig, had never been to see Sloan before, and in fact knew more of their songs than he thought he did when he checked out A-Sides Win yesterday, so I was super-glad to introduce him to the Wonderful World Of Live-In-Concert Sloan. May he forever be infected and become a fan like me!

Really, to look at the venue, there was no bad seat in the place. But it wasn’t even sold out. I mean, this is SLOAN, people, where were you tonight if you weren’t there? Get it together! How often do they come this close to where we live? NOT OFTEN. Anyway.

A while back, I’d been to one other concert at this venue, a folk show. It was sort of expected, for that one, that everyone would sit down and be passive. It’s a nice, historic, old building, the seats are nice and comfy, and there’s been a renovation recently, so everything is all perfect and clean. But does it work for a rock concert? Hell no. Does it work for a Sloan concert? Not even close to hell no! At least, not the way they ran it tonight.

People sat down the entire time. I scanned the faces of th ecrowd from my seat, and it was obvious they were having a good time, and even knew at least some of the songs. So why were their asses stuck in their seats? By some cosmic misfire, was gravity too heavy in Meaford tonight? I doubt it.

Herein lies a run-through of what we saw. Remember, most people sat through almost this ENTIRE THING.

First off was three excellent renditions of songs off the new record, Follow The Leader, Answer Was You, and Unkind, all well played and actually built, as a three-song combo, to be a perfect concert opener. People cheered. And remained seated. Chris even commented from the stage about how weird it was to be playing a venue where this seemed to be the norm. Take the hint, people!

And then, just to make James mad, though it was because some guy shouted a request at the stage and Chris quickly quipped that this was indeed the next song on the setlist (it wasn’t), they played Underwhelmed. Sorry, James. I don’t know why you always miss this song. But it was so big and crunchy and yummy great. Wish you were here. I totally thought of you when they started it up and if you had been with us it would have been perfect.

From there they went to one of my favourites of Sloan All-Time Songs, the brilliant Snowsuit Sound, then they rocked it back up with Believe In Me, complete with monstrous riff, and then Shadow Of Love. Wow, they played that one fast! The Lines You Amend was next, with an intro from Chris about how, of all the songs they would play early on, this was one people might know. You think? I was already hoarse at this point, from all the singing along. Anyway.

Things got all fast and thrashy again with It’s Plain To See, which was so great, and then they crashed into The Rest Of My Life, a surefire song to get people on their feet, right? Well, no. But when they got to the line “One thing I know about the rest of my life… I know that I’ll be living it in Canada, ” I was waving my arms and generally making it known that’s true for me and how much that song reflects a certain period and person of my life, and Chris stopped playing a second, caught my eye and gave a little wave. Right on, man! Total validation of everything that song means to me! And then without much pause they went straight into The Good In Everyone, which brought the house down… from their seats. Sigh.

It was at this point that a break was taken. What? you say? Oh yes. A little earlier, Chris had announced from the stage that, for the first time (probably) in Sloan’s career, an intermission of twenty minutes would be taken. The venue enforced it, which tells me only one thing – they are paying for their renovation and they wanted to sell us over-priced booze. This was so, so wrong, on so many levels. First of all, of course, it killed the energy that the band had diligently worked into perfection. They were primed to fire on all cylinders from the get-go, so, this many songs in, they were flying… and then they had to stop? Assinine. Second of all, did the break really need to be that long? Add to this the insulting ticket price (OK, I got them free, but c’mon). I’ve seen this same Sloan show (an album or so earlier), for half the money. They’ve always been very reasonable on ticket price. I KNOW that the rest of that inflated ticket price went to pay for your pretty Hall’s renovation, Meaford, you greedy bastards. So, we dutifully had an over-priced beer (which tasted bitter-sweet), talked with a friend of Craig’s, and went back to our seats. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

It should be noted at this point that Craig seemed to be enjoying himself, though by now he may have thought I was a bit nuts, what with all my singing along and arm-waving and attempts to get people on their feet. I even tried to get people involved in the (I thought) concert-staple SLOOOOAAAAN! chant, but I had no takers, and the band wasn’t taking the bait from the stage, either. At one point (I can’t remember which, but it was during the first set), the band was between songs and I tried the chant and was met with nothing. The room was so quiet, I’m sure everyone heard me say “Oh c’mon, people!” Which led to Chris commenting at another point that they were “just getting ready to play, no need to make noise. Shhh. It’s OK.” I mean, how many hints do you people need? Every other Sloan show I have been to was a mosh pit, people dancing and having a great time! You just… sit there? Ugh.

After the ridiculous break, the band did the by-now famous Sloan Switcheroo, with Chris moving from bass to drums, Jay from guitar to bass, and Andrew from drums to guitar. Andrew took over the vocals for an excellent She’s Slowin’ Down Again. After this, I tried another SLOOOAN chant, but it failed. Andrew stayed at the mike through Something’s Wrong, from Never Hear The End Of It, then Traces, and People Of The Sky, one song I thought would surely get people on their feet. Nope.

Just before that last track, Chris quipped that this would be Andrew’s last song singing and they would be taking a forty minute break now, as he was exhausted. Haha well-played, Chris. Take a stab at the venue for enforcing a break! Yeah! But as the band switched back to their usual instruments, the room was totally silent. It was eerie, weird, and totally inappropriate for the loud, raucous miasma that usually accompanies a Sloan show. Chris joked about it again. I’ve never experienced it before, and I hope I never do again.

Undeterred, they blasted into an excellent Losing California, then another of my All-Time Favourite Sloan Songs, the venerable Pen Pals. It was at this point, of all times in the evening, when some of the crowd finally got to their feet. Why here, I may never know. But that song led, without pause, straight into the full-on rock blast of I’ve Gotta Know, which was really, truly great in the live setting. The lovely Beverly Terrace followed, complete with a Shadow Of Love reprise. Well-done.

Then came the always glorious Coax Me, and hot on its heels Everything You’ve Done Wrong, complete with vocalized trumpet parts, except for the middle solo, which was boldly (and at lower volume) taken by new band member (?) Gregory MacDonald on the keyboards. Neat! You know, boys, I’d take up the trumpet part, if you want me tour with you! Let me know. Just sayin’.

We blasted from there right into a note-perfect Who Taught You To Live Like That? and a rockin’ Gimme That. After this, another of my SLOOOAN! chants failed. And we dissolve into the encore break… during which I tried the chant again (and failed). It was getting pathetic. Not a single person would join me. But at least by this point, people were on their feet and having fun, cheering for the band to come back. It was a totally weird dynamic, as though the entire show was worth sitting through, but once they left for the encore, everyone got on their feet and wanted them back. Like, where were you all those songs ago?

After a few short minutes, the band came back, Chris joking he was about to do some stand-up comedy, and then they started up The Other Man. Little did he know how right he was, in that. Now, it’s well-documented and noted throughout this site (and just ask me in person!) that, even though I love Sloan unconditionally, I particularly despise this song. Today, I could not tell you what it is about it, exactly, except that despite its tunefulness and storytelling, I just find it insipid. Not worthy of the Sloan catalogue. But other people seem to love it, and it was a big song for them, so I can cheer it insofar as it was helpful to Sloan. If James were there with us tonight, he would have given me that same big, affectionate but still, eat-shit grin he gave me at their show in Saskatoon, 2003. Even Craig, a relative Sloan noob, mentioned he liked that song. Sigh.

But during that song I had time to reflect on other things I’d seen and thought throughout the show. In particular, what a group of consummate performers the band really is, at this point. Totally professional, able to react to weird situations (like the enforced break and people remaining seated) with aplomb, and yet still rock their asses off, song after song after song. I recalled Patrick’s lovely cream/white Gibson SG and his super-cool paisley blue Tele, and the big anchor (with indecipherable – from where we were sitting – text, though it looked like someone had autographed it) on Andrew’s bass drum. I remembered the familiar, yet apparently (but not) sloppy-appearing drum style of Andrew, while Chris seemed even more haphazard and yet never seemed to miss. Craig had correctly pointed out that, from picture he had seen, the band hadn’t even really seemed to age, after all these years, or even change that much. It was ultimately reassuring, to me. I’ve loved Sloan so long, and here they were, still giving it their all and making vital, important music… for people who waited WAY too long to get on their feet in appreciation. Anyway.

Finally, The Other Man was over, and so began the beautifully long, drawn-out version of Money City Maniacs the band offered up as a concert-closer. The intro teased us, the meat of the song rocked (as you can imagine it would), and Patrick played this long, beautiful blues solo during the break down, and then everything became a big sing-along between band and audience before the song crashed to a close. Whomever was running the soundboard had cranked things at this point, ensuring we’d all go out into this hot, sticky Meaford night with ringing ears. As the song wound down, the band played a few notes of a Black Sabbath teaser and then, just as abruptly, with a few waves of thanks and some self-conscious grins, they left the stage and the house lights went up. Presumably, the band was on its way to go swimming in the lake after the gig, as Chris had mentioned from the stage at one point during the show. And who could blame them for seeking some recreation time after giving us so much of themselves for as long as they did? Not I, the man who was saddened to see them go so soon, disgusted by the crowd that no one remembered the SLOOOOAAAN chant, and yet ultimately thrilled to have been in the presence of my heroes once again.

But it wasn’t over.

After the show, Craig and I headed downstairs to the lobby and were hanging around the merch table, which offered nothing I didn’t already own on CD (though all the vinyls would have been nice, there was only Parallel Play, Never Hear The End of It and one other. I was tempted by the NHTEOI vinyl, but it was $25 and I already own (and LOVE) the CD, so I left it). The t-shirts were… uninspiring. The design even looked sloppy, like the transfer was faulty. I’m sure it was meant to look artistic, but I couldn’t imagine walking around wearing it. Craig inquired, and the kid-sized t-shirts, which would be perfect for his son Caellum and my son Isaac, were $25 each, was WAY too high for a t-shirt for a toddler. As we were deciding to leave, we headed for the hallway and the stairs… and discovered Chris and Patrick!

As they were passing by, Chris shook my hand and asked me where I’d got the Sloan t-shirt I was wearing. I dutifully replied “Saskatoon, 2003.” He nodded happily, and if I’d had a few more seconds I’d have reminded him of getting to meet him that night eight years ago, of my telling him what I knew of the hurricane we’d survived in Halifax (their hometown) on our (my wife and I)’s honeymoon only weeks before, But just like that, he was gone, already talking to some guys who had driven four hours to get to the show and broken down on the way, only catching the last few songs of the set. Can’t compete with that, I guess.

Turn to my right and there was Patrick, whom I’d never met before. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music, commenting that I didn’t want to shake his hand too hard, him being a guitar-player, and all. He told me not to worry about it. I told him it was my fifth time seeing the band live, the first time being 1993. This phased his Pro-Meet-The-Fans facade a bit, seemed to penetrate and made him realize how long they’d been at this game. If I’d been thinking, I’d have asked for a picture (Craig had his iPhone). I really should have. I will regret not asking, now. Isn’t retrospect a wonderful thing? But such is life. My moment of time with Patrick is gone, and I will remember it clearly.

Man, I love this band. Have I said that before? Yes, a million times. And I’ll say it a million more. To see them live, even under these strange circumstances, was a thrill and an honour, and it will go down in my memory as yet another brilliant moment of my long, loving history of my appreciation of this band.

My HUGE thanks to my family for getting me tickets, granting me a birthday present that was indeed an experience. I love Sloan. SLOAN ROCKS!

The Set-List:

Follow The Leader
Answer Was You
Unkind
Underwhelmed
Snowsuit Sound
Believe In Me
Shadow Of Love
The Lines You Amend
It’s Plain To See
The Rest Of My Life
The Good In Everyone
-break, wtf!-
She’s Slowin’ Down Again
Something’s Wrong
Traces
People Of The Sky
Losing California
Pen Pals
I’ve Gotta Know
Beverly Terrace (Shadow Of Love reprise)
Coax Me
Everything You’ve Done Wrong
Who Taught You To Live Like That?
Gimme That
-encore break-
The Other Man
Money City Maniacs
Sabbath teaser outro

I HAVE SLOAN TICKETS!

WOOHOO!

Yep, my birthday prezzie this year from my family is tix to see the ever-fabulous SLOOOOOOOAN, this Thursday night at the Meaford Town Hall! And they’re good seats, too!

This will be my 5th time seeing this most excellent band in a live setting. I also saw them:

1993 – Windsor, ON (Capitol Theatre – with Leslie)
1996 – Lindsay, ON (Edenfest – with Brian and Janet)
1998 – Waterloo, ON (Fed. Hall, U. of Waterloo – with Brian)
2003 – Saskatoon (Prairielands – with James. We met Chris and got a photo and autographs!)

They have come around a lot more times than that, of course, but these were the times when I had my shit together enough, the Universe smiled benificently upon me, and events conspired to co-operate with my actually getting to go.

And guess what, my boss totally surprised me – see, that’s a night I’d have to work ’til 8, and the show starts at 8 and Meaford’s a good half hour from here so, with no opening act I can find listed, I was sure to miss a few songs and have to walk in with the energy of the show already going instead of being there for that delicious initial rush. I was still cool with that, because I’d still be there for most of it. But yeah, even though I would have bet money I don’t have on my boss not letting me off early, she did! So now I get to be there on time and SEE THE WHOLE GIG!

I can’t wait to hear the new songs live. The Double Cross has been growing on me (even more so) over the past weeks. Not a bad song on that record.

I hope they play for ten hours. At least.

I AM GOING TO SEE SLOAN!!!! WOOOOOO!!

SLCR #159: Sloan (May 30, 2011)

This is another one where I’m tempted to just write “it was fine” and move on. Or else, y’know, start a new text file and let it sit empty for three weeks. Instead, I’ve just hit play on Sloan’s new album, The Double Cross. I think it runs about 35 minutes. That is my deadline for writing this. I kind of hope to have to stop mid-sentence.

We made the drive up to Saskatoon that morning. Plans to leave earlier in the weekend were called off because we’d never left the cat alone overnight before and so we figured that one night would be enough for the first time. The drive was uneventful. Once in town, we took my mom to the zoo for (belated) Mother’s Day. Despite the adorable baby geese and baby bison and baby goats (11 days old!), I think her real highlight of the day was the pre-zoo trip to Bulk Barn. I’d laugh, but it was a first for me too and I had a great time. They have so much stuff! In big buckets! I got some chocolate-coated peanut brittle (from a bucket). It was okay, but mostly it made me think that a homemade version would be killer. Especially if I made bacon peanut brittle again. But I’m getting off-topic and discussing something more interesting. Better focus.

This was my third time seeing Sloan. Mika’s in the double digits by now. Dave and Deserée came along too, both first-timers. We had a wide range of Sloan experience, from long-time superfan to “oh yeah, that’s the song from the Future Shop commercials.”

We got to the bar with plenty of time to sit around and discuss… um, stuff? I was going to list what we’d been talking about, – at the time, I thought it would be a funny list – but now, all I really remember is talking about the death of Boner Stabone from Growing Pains (“BONER’S DEAD?!”), and whether people in the 80s knew that “Boner” was an inappropriate nickname for a family-friendly TV show.
I guess we also discussed why a bar would have servers bring people food, but refuse to bring people drinks. Not specific people, but all people. You can order food, but you have to go get your own drinks. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I can’t figure out what it is.

The Double Cross is half-over. Better pick up the pace.

I had hopes that the opener would be somebody good – apparently Sloan tours a lot with Magneta Lane and Will Currie & The Country French, and I’d like to see either of them. Instead, we got Dearly Beloved. I think I’ve read about them on the internet. I dunno, they liked swearing? Not in an angry way. They reminded me of that day in Grade 3 when we all decided that we were going to take up swearing and not tattle on each other, so we all said “fuck” 10 times a sentence because we could and it was fun. Their songs had lots of “fucks” for seemingly no reason other than “we’re swearing! In front of people!” This was the kind of band where, had I been 21, I would have bought their CD, taken it home with good intentions, and never listened to it. I’ve still got some of those CDs in a box in the basement. Instead, I listened to them, thought “well, that happened,” and waited for Sloan.

This is the year of anniversary tours, I guess. I’ve seen four shows this year and this is the third where the band is touring to celebrate a milestone. Sloan is 20, or XX as their big banner said (XX also = “The Double Cross”), and the ads promised “hits and fan favourites from the first 10 albums.” If those are the two choices, I’d have to say they leaned heavily towards the fan favourites for most of the show. Lots of deep cuts (does anyone apart from radio d-bags actually say “deep cuts?”) from years past and very few singles, which probably wasn’t all that welcoming for the less familiar fans. Even for me, there was a point where I wound up thinking “okay, play one song that I’ve heard before, I’m begging you.” But maybe I’m just bitter because I’m three shows in and still haven’t heard Underwhelmed.

It was a fast-paced show, moving quickly from song to song. It was paced like the new album – no surprise since they also played most of the new album – we weren’t there overly late and they didn’t play too long, but it felt like they played a lot of songs. And I always complain about the sound quality at these shows, so I should point out that I actually liked the sound here. I miss the dank of the old Louis’ – the new one is too angular and modern and cold – but at least they figured out how to make it sound good.

The drive back was uneventful (though it felt really long). The cat was grumpy when we got home and, in a surely unrelated note, Mika’s toothbrush was in the back entrance. I was expecting worse.

Sloan – The Double Cross

Right off the top, here’s my bias: I love Sloan. LOVE. Have for years, since catching them live for Twice Removed introduced me to their entrancing hook laden-harmony-pop-rock genius. And yes, that is some time ago, now. I sincerely thank Leslie, the Condom Queen, for begging me to go to that show.

And now, the review:

Hard to believe, but this is indeed Sloan’s 20th year. The Double Cross. XX in roman numerals is twenty. Get it? Of course you do. They’re so clever! And they always have been. One of the hallmarks of Sloan’s music has not only been their incredible musicality, but their wit and charm and ingenious word play, coupled with killer riffs and all of their influences worn proudly on their sleeves. It’s what we’ve come to expect, and Sloan never disappoints.

The Double Cross is simply incredible, a short, sharp shock of pop rock. At high volume through good headphones, it is sheer brilliance. It sounds like a band twenty years in, still riding their unending peak, and yet also somehow feeling that giddy tingle of putting together their first record, all at the same time. All of the elements are here. The fist-pumping rawk riffs sure to drive the crowd nuts in a live setting, the delicious pop hooks that happily get stuck in your head, the tight choreography of instruments, that Sloan knack for writing lyrics that fit every song perfectly.

Everything is where it should be. Most of the songs are shorter, faster, and with the elimination of space between tracks a la Never Hear The End Of It (my hands-down album of the year for 2006), the album feels like a cohesive piece while still letting each piece stand strong its own.

The tracks that give me hope for the future of Sloan (as if it was ever in doubt), are It’s Plain To See and I’ve Gotta Know. It’s this kind of energy, even at this stage in the career, that tells me that this band could do this forever. And they should. Please guys, do this forever. We’ll be right there with you.

PS Throw in the fact that I got my copy of this record through Maple, which is signed by the whole band, and we have a front-runner for this being my album of the year for 2011. And it’s only May!

Sloan – B-Sides Win

I promised to write about this collection 2010-02-17. Yep, almost a year ago. Anyway, here I am and here it is. You’ve been very patient. So I’ll go through it track by track, to reward your patience. You’re welcome.

We all know I love everything Sloan, and this collection is (of course) a staple in my listening queue. The original Hear And Now version of Underwhelmed chugs along beautifully. I like it almost better than the version on Smeared. But I couldn’t choose, that’s like choosing affection between your kids – who does that? Amped bops along nicely, and fuzzes out yummily too. Sleepover takes the pace back several notches, showing off the guitar pedals in their rig. Rag Doll is not an Aerosmith cover (sorry, kid), but it is another slower almost Pumpkins-ish track. Laying Blame brightens things up again, a lovely pop song.

I had Pillow Fight on a weird little compilation EP from years ago called Nevermind The Mollusks, and it was nice to find it here again. A strong rock song. D Is For Driver is a straight-on pop rocker as only Sloan can do it, the studio version of Stood Up is a bluesy rock out of the highest order (great bass, here), while the studio version of Same Old Flame is another Sloan relationship song that seems to not want to get going but, when it does, it’s as sweet as anything else they’ve done. Nice tambourine!

Work Cut Out brings out a little of their love of the Beach Boys’ sound (to me). The song sort of bangs its way through, as though it’s building trnsion, making us wait for a resolution that never really comes. Out To Lunch is a monster blues rocker. This would sound so great live! Glad To Be Here storms in hot on its heels, keeping that stadium-rocking mood going.

Summer’s The Season is more languid, organ to the fore, but a cool track nonetheless. At The Edge Of The Scene brings out the acoustic guitars for the intro (which reminds me so much of another, more famous, song I can’t quite name at the moment). Then it jumps into straight-on Sloan pop rock. Lovely. Had Enough’s piano is (probably purposely) out of tune, which suits the song’s melancholy sweep just fine. Helen is another mid-tempo rocker, the sound more fuzzed-out than usual. The demo for Pretty Together is, well, very pretty. And is it together? Of course it is.

The Russian Futurists version of Are You Giving Me Back My Love’s intro almost makes me shut it off everytime (who needs that crap?), but it’s eventually saved by acoustic loveliness and some funny plinking noises that helps me ignore those long-held notes. Ugh. Step On It, Jean takes us back out on the rock highway, blasting through another night of fuzz-rock greatness. Dirty Nails takes a long time to build (for such a short song) and, when it gets there, it doesn’t go the direction you think it will – instead of grabbing that bluesy riff and rocking on it, we get an almost 80’s pop sound. Cool. May be the first song to have back-up vocals going “slice slice slice.” Haha awesome.

Will You Ever Love Me Again? is pure Sloan pop rock which, to me, sound like an earlier effort but may also not be. I didn’t pay much attention to the chronology, here. I Thought That I Was Ready For You is one of those fabulous middle ground, beautiful harmony pop rockers that Sloan do so well. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know keeps that ball rolling, complete with chugging guitars (what a cool riff). And handclaps! Even Though is a slow song disguised as a slightly faster song, helped along by many layers of instruments and volume. Still, a lovely effort. The Best Part Of Your Life is more pure Sloan pop (love it!) and, finally, the reprise of Believe In Me brings up the rear, stomping along with acoustic guitars that become fuzzy electrics, with the occasional cut-sound electronic-sounding weird bits thrown in. Wow. And, that’s all of them.

So. Whew! What a collection. It’s huge. I love it all. And my overall impression of it? None of these are b-sides. Seriously.

Thanks heaps, Sloan. Make a million more records, wouldja?

Carolyn & NQ, Arrogant Worms, It Might Get Loud and SLOOOOAAN!

Another long while between blasts. It’s about bloody time I got at least something up here…

Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle – Let’s Just Stay Here

I’ve loved this disc from the get-go. And I was writing initial reviews of it in my head right after I got it. Obviously, I never got around to the actual writing part. But now I realize that this negligence has actually been a blessing in disguise. Sure, I’d have raved about this record at the time. It’s a solid, engaging and excellent effort that definitely has its own feel, creates its own space to breathe and be all the awesome that it is and then goes for it full-on. But the added advantage I have in waiting until now to post this is in getting to tell you just how much of a good friend this record has become with repeated listens. Damn, man. This rules. The trademark humour, the harmonies, the excellent music from the band. It sounds equally great in my iPod, my stereo, and in my rumbly old truck. Yeah baby, this is the real deal.

Arrogant Worms – Three Worms And An Orchestra

A fun DVD, exactly as you’d expect: the group’s goofy songs with full arrangements from the Edmonton SO. They underhand-pitch most of their schtick between songs, and fair enough. Good family fun. The song ‘Celine Dion’ still makes me howl.

It Might Get Loud

A mostly cool meeting of three generations of guitar biggies; Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page. They play, talk, reminisce…

It was nice to see the elder-statesman Page still so enthralled with the music, and he seemed a good sport about this gig. He gets paid the least attention, though, which is odd given his legacy.

It’s hard to take somebody who calls himself The Edge seriously, especially since he’s been playing essentially the same damn riff for twenty years. All his effects and knob-twiddlings fail to interest me.

White came out best in this, to my mind. The brash impatience and energy, the studied acknowledgement of the dark corners of the blues, the wavering between respect and arrogance. We laughed when he said, on the way to this historic meeting, that he expected a fistfight. Haha. Yeah, if the future remains in his hands we’ll be alright.

Recommended viewing, even if they do totally butcher ‘The Weight’ during the end credits.

Sloan – Hit & Run EP

Sloan has a new EP and a B-Sides collection available for cheap on their web site. You should go buy them right now. http://www.sloanmusic.com/

This EP is a thoughtful collection of new material in that inimitable Sloan style. Strong writing, gorgeous song construction and instrumentations, incredibly catchy hooks, and the sense that while these songs are great on the EP, they’ll be even better live. Yeah baby! SLOOOOAANN!!!

I’ll get to writing about the b-sides collection after I give it another full spin.

Finally! Some new shit!

Yes, it’s been a pathetically long time since my last appearance here. But remember, it’s like John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans,” and man, I have been busy making plans to post here for WAY too long. So here’s some of the shit I’ve been listening to. More to come, ‘cos I’ve filled my iPod with all kinds of stuffs. Wahoo!

Terrible Hostess, Volume 2

Hooray for our friends at Mint Records! As you all know, Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle have just released a tasty new disc of excellent music called Let’s Just Stay Here. Talk about making our year! So, in honour of this release, our great friends at Mint sent us some really sweet swag… buttons and stickers (love the airline ‘Fragile’ stickers with Air Carolyn on them!), a Carolyn and NQ luggage tag, and a blood red dish towel to go with a beautiful copy of Carolyn’s Terrible Hostess: Recipes For Disaster, Volume 2 cookbook! Some of the recipes look downright tasty and I can’t wait to try them (with recommended music playing and recommended drink in hand).

Slayer – World Painted Blood

Business-as-usual chaos as only Slayer can muster it. Play this as loud as your player can go. SLAYER!

Slipknot – Slipknot 10th Anniversary Edition

The CD’s the real draw in this set, with all the brutal honesty and aggression intact… and bonus tracks! Sweet.

Hawksley Workman – We’ll Make Time (Even When There Ain’t No Time)

New Hawksley is coming! Get ready! James found this radio broadcast world premiere. It’s a one-idea slow build with enough lyrics to make anyone run out of breath, crashing full-on into rock-out bliss. Ah, Hawksley.

Guided By Sloan

Just noticed that in the liner notes for Sloan’s Navy Blues, Guided By Voices is listed as having shared the stage. Imagine THAT show! I think I’d pass out with bliss…

Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love

Spent the whole time listening to this recognizing all of the influences that have given them their sound (U2, Oasis, Coldplay and tiresomely beyond). Shame they haven’t found their own sound out of the list.

Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant

This would sound great live. Kind of reminds me of the Trews although, if they meant what they said in the first track, they don’t give a shit what comparisons I can make. Just a great, fun rawk record.

Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto

Oddly compelling, with weird party music and falsetto vocals. Could almost be the soundtrack to a 60’s stage show musical. Are we sure this isn’t a Darkness side project?

Yim Yames – A Tribute To

My Morning Jacket dude’s tribute to George Harrison. Stripped-down renditions show the strength of the originals and let the covers shine too.

Miranda Lambert – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

New country meets the moxy of the classic country ladies of days gone by, with a few dud tracks thrown in. This lady can sing, that’s for sure. One foot in a bold new direction, the other stuck in the same old schtick.

Iggy Pop – Preliminaires

Man, Iggy rules. Only this particular wild man could foist such a collection of jazzy. bluesy, rock-ish and Parisian-sounding stuff on our ears and get away with it. And without ridicule, too. Strangely compulsive, and not just because it’s Iggy (and therefore we must love it). A welcome diversion, so long as it’s not an admission that he’s finally slowing down for good.

Harry Connick, Jr. – Blue Light, Red Light

This takes me back to high school .Yes, I was THAT guy back then. Still am now, I’ll have you know. Great swing, astounding arrangements in the best of this style’s traditions. Could be the soundtrack to a grainy-colour 60’s musical, and that’s a very, very good thing.

Flight Of The Conchords – I Told You I Was Freaky

We all love these guys by now, with their quirky humour that’s laugh-out-loud funny. Even if you set aside the images from the TV show in your mind, this is still an hilariously danceable record. These guys are really onto something.

SLOOOOOOOOOAAAAAN!

Y’all need to get yourselves on over to http://www.sloanmusic.com and sign up (or update) your email subscription to Sloan’s newsletter so you can download their new single for FREE!

Go! Go! GO! NOW!

Tell ’em the KMA sent you…

Gimme Gimmes, Ten Redux, Sloooooan, the Someday iPod, and Hawksley!

Stuck On The Gimmes

My first car, a ’93 Honda Civic that I got in ’97 or so, kicked a whole lotta ass. It was a 5-speed, low and wide, and man, I drove the snot out of that thing. The last tape in that car’s tape deck was a mix of Me First And The Gimme Gimmes which, as I discovered when I went to sell the car in ’99, had become irrevocably stuck in the tape deck. So, the only options for music in the car at that point were the radio, and the Gimmes. I choose Gimmes!

Well, here I am a decade later with an ’03 Ford Taurus, and it has a tape deck in it too. Yes, in this day and age! Imagine! And so I have made a new mix tape of the Gimmes for this car. It’s only fair. Of course, they have released several more albums in the intervening decade, so the mix is much expanded and improved.

My only hope is that this mix, too, will get stuck in the tape deck. Call it Car-ma. OK, sorry, that was bad. But funny! And if that kid who bought that Honda ten years ago played his cards right, he could still be driving that car, and still grooving to the Gimmes, same as me!

The Tracks Of My 2009 (60 min) Gimmes Mix:

Side A

Danny’s Song
Country Roads
Nothing Compares 2 U
Elenor
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Sweet Caroline
Stand By Your Man
Hello
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
It’s Raining On Prom Night
Mona Lisa

Side B

Only The Good Die Young
Crazy
Nobody Does It Better
Who Put The Bomp
Favourite Things
Annie’s Song
Rocket Man
Natural Woman
The Times They Are A-Changin’
End Of The Road
Mandy
Stepping Out

You’ll notice I left off tracks from the Live At Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah record, favouring album tracks instead. And the Bob Dylan cover on Side B is from the Turn Japanese EP. For those of you who care.

Ten Redux

As you all know, Pearl Jam has released a very limited edition of their Ten re-release. It comes in a big beautiful box, with CDs, a DVD, some vinyls, a tape and a book (and who knows what else).

Recently, I held a copy of it in my hands. It was $220.

As a fan, I wanted it. I felt joy just holding it. I love that album, and that band. I knew I would appreciate it to no end. As a collector, I knew that getting one of only 1200 copies would be special, probably precious but, more importantly, worthwhile to me personally.

As a man who will become a father (for the first time) any day now, I didn’t buy it. I have lots of other priorities. And that’s not to say that having a baby made me wuss out. No, it just didn’t feel right. There was a time I wouldn’t have thought twice and just bought it. Now, well, I guess not… Interesting. The collector in me will regret it. The practical person in me won’t.

SLOOOOOOOOOOAN!!

My next foray into the difficult task of creating mere 60 minute car mix-tapes of my favourite bands has led me, as I am always happily led, back to Sloan. How I do love this band. Imagine how difficult it was to make only one tape! Nevertheless, my attempt yielded the following:

Side A

Underwhelmed
Coax Me
The Rest Of My Life
Keep On Thinking
Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay
Believe In Me
So Beyond Me
I Am The Cancer
G Turns To D

Side B

The Good In Everyone
Money City Maniacs
Who Taught You To Live Like That?
If It Feels Good Do It
Worried Now
Live On
Everything You’ve Done Wrong
Penpals
The Lines You Amend

And still there were a ton I wanted on there. So awesome.

The Someday iPod

Yes, someday I will have an iPod. True, just about everyone else seems to have one (except for me). True, I do own Weed King, the 1GB player my parents got for me, and it is indeed great. I even have the tape deck adapter for it for my car. But I can fill 1GB in the time it takes me to blink. I just have to start loading all the Hip, Sloan, Hawksley, Weaker… oh wait, the Weakerthans won’t fit. Shit. I didn’t even finish with a fraction of my Canuck faves, let alone my punk or metal or… See what I mean?

And so, one day I will have an iPod to be a companion for my super-amazing MacBook Pro. And it will be one of the ones that has something huge for storage capacity. To heck with these Nanos and those touch-screens with their still-tiny memories. For the same price I can skip out on the touch interface that I’d hate and actually have some leg room for all the music I want to take with me everywhere which is, admittedly, a substantial amount of tunes.

I’ve also noticed that Apple offers two free lines of engraving on iPods, too, and I already know what mine will say, it’ll say “It’s about fucking time/Aaron got an iPod.”

Of course, probably by the time I can afford one, it’ll just be an iChip that you plug into the port that Apple wet-wires behind your ears (for a fee), and you’ll control albums and tracks by altering how you flex your butt cheeks and wink your eyes, or whatever. But still, it is good to have a goal.

The Hawksley Project

Recently, I resolved to attempt a Hawksley Workman mix that’s limited to a 60 minute mix tape for the car. To mitigate the obvious difficulty inherent in such oppressive selectiveness, James kindly offered his services and so he and I split the duties by selecting a side’s worth of tracks apiece. I very much doubt that our selections reliably indicate the different aspects of what we like about this genuine artist’s output, since it’s categorically impossible to dislike anything the man does.

So, James chose his 8 tracks, and I chose mine, and then I fleshed it out to make an 80 minute CD for the other car (which actually has a CD player in it), so the end result looks like this:

Side A: Chosen With Love By James

We Will Still Need A Song
Bullets
Claire Fontaine
Kissing Girls (You Shouldn’t Kiss)
Alone Here (Ballad Of Bunches Of Things)
Clever Not Beautiful
Spider In The Salt
Every Creepy Pusher

Side B: Chosen With Glee By Aaron

Smoke Baby
Jealous Of Your Cigarette
Anger As Beauty
Striptease
Is This What You Call Love?
Three Generations
Your Naked Body
Safe And Sound

Extra Tracks On The CD Version:

19 And The Morning Here Is Cold
20 Tarantulove
21 Even An Ugly Man
22 Piano Blink (Los Manlicious version)
23 Sweet Hallelujah

What a great mix. When I listen to this on my way to work, I just know it’ll be impossible for me to have a bad day! Hawksley rules!

Sloan – Parallel Play

SLOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOAAAAAAAN!!!!

Now, I’m a little biased, but seriously, this band kicks total ass. Pick up any of their records and you’ll know immediately what I’m on about. Within everything they do there’s an intelligent sensibility, an honest, homage-like love of rock and pop. Simultaneously, they’ve cultivated a genuine sound of their own that simply can’t help but make you very happy, indeed. What’s not to like? Exactly.

Most reviewers paid by The Man, surely for lack of imagination and anything else to do with their limited talents, will probably try to compare this new record to the band’s brilliant last one, Never Hear The End Of It which, as you’ll recall, I named my Album Of The Year without reservation. But the comparing? That’s silly. I mean, sure, it’s the same band, but people should know by now that Sloan have been shape-shifting all along, going from grunge-pop to pure pop to Beatles-esque beauty, from huge AC/DC riffs to punk hotness and back again, interchangeably, all the while offering up track after track of greatness. So it’s an exercise in futility to pick at minutiae. Just call it Sloan, turn it up and get over yourself. They fucking rock and that’s all you need to know. Amen.

So here’s Parallel Play, another pure (and sure) shot of sheer listening bliss. Oh my goodness, the hooks! These guys are total masters, and every song is a fist-pumping anthem that totally gets stuck in your head and you don’t ever want it to leave. This record plays like a greatest hits collection. Note to other bands: you better step up. Sloan’s showing you how!

The production here is perfect – I’ve been listening to this through headphones and it’s flawless. And having been to several Sloan concerts myself, I can tell you right now that these songs are gonna totally kill, live. The sound is so huge! Oh baby.

Right now, if you were to force me to pick (which isn’t very fair of you), my favourite track would be the bouncy punk of Emergency 911, which totally makes me wanna jump around with glee, but ask me again in a few minutes and it’ll be the rockin’ Dylan-esque rip-snort of Down In The Basement, and then… and so it goes.

Every one of these songs should be all over the radio. Do you hear me, radio? Huh? Get on it! And you, Frequent Reader? Should you buy this CD? Well, duh! I mean, why haven’t you already!?

I Loved This Record.

Track Listing:
01 Believe In Me
02 Cheap Champagne
03 All I Am Is All You’re Not
04 Emergency 911
05 Burn For It
06 Witch’s Wand
07 The Dogs
08 Living The Dream
09 The Other Side
10 Down In The Basement
11 If I Could Change Your Mind
12 I’m Not A Kid Anymore
13 Too Many

Sloan – A Sides Win

Everyone should own the rapture that is this CD/DVD set from Sloan. Seriously, it is that good. It’s all here, from the well-done to the artsy-fartsy to the hilariously misguided. There’s a whole career-spanning CD of all of the band’s singles, and two new songs! The DVD contains all of the videos for those singles, a video by video documentary with commentary from the band, TV and live appearances, and a whole bunch of extra stuff.

It’s probably well-known around here that I’m a bit of a Sloan fan. In fact, I probably drive people nuts talking about them. Well, believe me when I say that this set is solid gold, bar none. It’s a fan’s dream, a music geek’s slobber-inducing collection of rare stuff and inside information, and it’s a great all-in-one collection for those people not cool enough to have collected all the records by now. Being music fans themselves, the band knew exactly how to put a thing like this together. Right on.

There are too many highlights to mention them all here, but I must admit to not having seen a lot of these videos before, so it was a real pleasure to get to see them now… Wait a minute… What?!?! How can he be a Sloan fan and not see all that? Well, we don’t have a TV, so I miss out on that aspect of it. Sorry, boys. But I’m making up for lost time now, for sure! I’m even willing to overlook the inclusion of The Other Man. I know it was a single. I know other people like it. Fair enough. It just ain’t for me.

All of that said, let me close with the only statement you need to tell you whether you should strap on your Chucks and run out to buy this set:

Slooooooooooooooooooooooooan! Sloooooooooooooooooooooan!!!!

N.B. Many thanks to my sister for getting me this sweet, sweet Sloan collection for Christmas this year!! It is a truly great thing.

Sloan – Keeping The Tour Alive

Ah, Sloan.

There’s a whole story here. See, I noticed that this DVD was coming out, and I immediately emailed James about it, probably in block caps to attempt to fully express my excitement. You see, I love Sloan. So I asked James to email my wife about it, that I thought this DVD would make an EXCELLENT Christmas present for little ol’ me. A simply splendid gift, for sure. Yummy.

Why not just buy it for myself? Well, my wife had made me promise not to buy anything for myself so close to Christmas, simply because I’m the kinda guy who sees what he likes (Sloan!) and just buys it right then. So how can anyone get me anything for Christmas?

True to my promise, I waited, albeit impatiently. I’d go visit the DVD on Maple, staring longingly at its groovy orange cover, imagining the excellent rocking and heady Sloan Goodness contained therein. And then, one day I went to visit and the DVD was Unavailable! Panic is not the word. What was a guy to do? OH NO!

Fast-forward a few more days. Given my wonky work schedule and our family plans over the holidays, my wife and I had our Christmas early, last night, and there it was, lovingly wrapped and waiting for me because my wife is completely awesome! Hooray and WAHOO! Imagine my relief. Yay! It seems James had indeed emailed my wife and was apparently not at all subtle about this being a gift for me… I thank them both immensely for being in cahoots on this one!

Of course I sat up late tonight and watched the disc in its entirety. It is pretty sweet indeed! It is punk rock in its layout, with a one-choice menu, no little booklet, no track listing. Just shut up, sit down, and share in the footage of the mighty Sloan on tour. Cool! I can dig it! Filmed on their U.S. Action Pact tour (2004), we get to go toy shopping, golfing and, of course, on stage with the band. Odd little vignettes and cut-scenes abound, in hotel rooms and on the bus, and one just gets the sense that a lot of fun is to be had with this group of guys. Laughter. Good-natured mocking. Good grammar. Debates about Zeppelin vs Skynyrd (I’m not kidding).

One thing I couldn’t understand, though, was why there weren’t more people dancing in the crowd, or singing along. And then I remembered that this was filmed on the U.S. part of their tour. Look, I know they have their fans down there, but c’mon people! Why are you just standing there, nodding your head? Get groovin’!

Anyway.

If you’re a Sloan fan, this DVD will please you immensely, though you’ll wish it had been three times as long as it is. I know I did. If you’re new to Sloan, welcome! This disc will be an odd introduction, but it’ll surely serve to endear them to you anyway. If you don’t like Sloan, shame on you. I mean, really. Get with it.

Yah, I liked this. I liked it heaps. Hope you can get your copy. Rock on, Sloan!

Sloooooooooooan! Slooooooooooooooooan!

Sloan (October 21, 2006)

Mika likes Sloan more than anyone, meaning she likes Sloan more than anyone else does, and more than she likes anyone else. Really, it’s easier to just say that she likes Sloan more than normal people like anything. She warned me that she would become insufferable in the leadup to this show, but really, that’s being overly harsh. “Mildly giddy” is not the same as insufferable. I’m guessing the steady stream of quality concerts took the edge off this one somewhat. Perhaps that is a good thing.
We arrived at the Odeon about an hour later than we had planned, despite being there right on time. That’s what happens when you misread your tickets and you think the doors are opening an hour later than they really are. Luckily, nothing had started yet, so it all worked out in our favour.
I bought no shirt. I debated it off and on throughout the evening, finally deciding that I would buy a pink Sloan shirt – pink to match the colour of their new album – but after the concert was over, everyone in our little group headed straight for the door so I opted against it so as not to slow everyone down. I kind of regret this – not that the shirt was that nice (it was the album cover, which is a picture of the four dudes on a pink background, nothing earth-shattering), but I’ve wanted a pink t-shirt for some time and this was a brilliant excuse. All you find for dudes are lame shirts at jeans stores that say stuff like “REAL MEN WEAR PINK” or “MY OTHER SHIRT WAS DIRTY” or “MY JOKES AREN’T FUNNY AND MY SHIRT WAS OVERPRICED.” I just want a plan pink t-shirt. Or a pink t-shirt with pictures of Sloan dudes on them, that’d be good too.
The openers were The Yokos (according to the ticket) or The Yoko Casionos (according to the band). They were perfectly fine. Apart from about 25 awesome bands, the Canadian station on XM plays about two million completely indistinct bands, and the Yoko Casionos would fit right in. At no point did I ever think “I’m not enjoying this,” but also, at no point did I think “I should maybe buy this.” They were there. And it was fine. And then it was over, and I didn’t think about them at all until just now.
Between sets, we debated which Sloan song was the most famous. The debate eventually settled on Underwhelmed vs. Money City Maniacs. I went with Underwhelmed, but was told that I only felt that way because I am old. This may be true. But I don’t care if Money City Maniacs is in beer commercials and Future Shop commercials – if people don’t know that the riff they’re hearing is from Money City Maniacs, it’s immaterial. Or else I’m just trying to bend the rules to make myself right.
Anyway, the Sloan show was pretty great. Much like the New Pornographers, it was better than the previous time I’d seen them, and again, a good part of that had to do with the crowd. A disproportionate number of the crowd were teenage female hockey players who apparently had hockey battles against Sloan earlier in the day.
There were a great number of songs from the new album, which is no surprise, as the new album has a great number of songs. Unfortunately, I only knew about four of them (and one, Who Taught You To Live Like That, had its first verse essentially forgotten and mangled, though I’m not complaining as things like that are kind of awesome), but that’s my own fault. Especially now that I HAVE listened to the album and I’ve determined that it is, in fact, pretty great. Still no Underwhelmed, but like Aaron said, I’ll just have to go back next time.

Sloan – Never Hear The End Of It

Sloan has carefully crafted perfection yet again. This time, it just might be their Exile On Main Street, their Pet Sounds, and yes, their White Album. Sure to be mentioned endlessly in the coming months by those in the know, Never Hear The End Of It is the witty, bright, insightful and fun breath of fresh air you’ve been seeking in the repetitive wasteland that is modern rock.

At 30 (mostly brief) songs, it’s a non-stop barrage of soaring, jangly bliss. Here are all the best elements of Twice Removed and One Chord To Another, making the sound modern and inimitably their own, while still proudly wearing their 70’s sensibilities on the front of their classic black t-shirt with white sleeves.

The strong songs on this set can easily stand alone, while also working well in the seamless mix of the album. Never Hear… swings along like a hipster on the summer sidewalk of a downtown Friday night, dressed to the nines and ready for anything. It reaches out with arms of pop goodness and gives you a big, warm harmony hug. You’ll nod your head in time with the hook-heavy music, hear your own story in their clever wordplay, laugh when they laugh, and learn a little more about yourself along the way. When it’s finished playing, you’ll happily spin it again from the top.

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