This was the one. The record that made me want to be a rock star. The one that made me realize that the rock I had grown up loving and consuming, the Stones, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, it was still alive and well, and being played every five minutes on Much Music.
Of course, I’m not a rock star. Who is today? Maybe Kanye. I don’t think that “rock stars” exist in 2016. But Sloan exists in 2016, and for that we are lucky.
It was the first video from One Chord to Another, Sloan’s third album, that made me want to be a rock star. I didn’t know that they were referencing Easy Rider, that Jay was wearing a “Back to Mono” pin because he was playing the Phil Spector “connection” character. I wouldn’t become obsessed with Spector for a few years, seeking out the Back to Mono box set and Righteous Brothers 7 inches at record sales. But when I was 13, there was nothing cooler than Patrick wearing a fuzzy hat and Andrew plugging his ears at the sound of a plane going overhead – nothing more punk than making an opening sequence that was longer than the song itself.
This may have been the first Sloan record I bought, at the HMV in the mall across the street from where I worked at age 13. I went with the single disc version, as the imported double disc (recorded “live at a Sloan party”) had a much higher price tag (yes, I know the American import came out much later, but I was late to this party). Years later I would find that second disc online and dig on the covers and alternate versions, fleshed out by fake “party” noise and “live” screams.
It’s those same faux live screams that accompany “The Good in Everyone” (just not on the radio/video edit), the song that opens One Chord to Another and sits comfortably between the Chili Peppers and Better Than Ezra on the first installment of Big Shiny Tunes. Those same faux live screams that became real every time I saw Sloan over the years, for the first time at Edgefest ’98, which was held at a stadium that is now a Bed Bath and Beyond, a Marshalls and an insurance centre.
With its mellow AM radio crooners (“Junior Panthers” is cooler than you’ll ever be), hooky garage rockers (“G Turns to D”) and hit singles that probably wouldn’t be hits today (the poppy as fuck “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” and chilled out “The Lines You Amend”) it’s one of those great mixed bags that works. It’s retro but current, it’s weird but accessible, it’s clean but raw. It’s a pretty perfect record.
Released between 1994’s beloved Twice Removed and 1998’s commercial breakthrough Navy Blues (maybe my favourite Sloan disc), it was rumoured to be the band’s swan song, but then it wasn’t, and we got 20 more years of Sloan, maybe followed by 20 more. Even though it’s one of five studio full lengths the band made in that time (each notable for its own special reason), it stands out as an important one. A timeless one. So timeless, Sofia Coppola put some of its songs into her debut film, The Virgin Suicides, which takes place in the ‘60s.
There are a lot of things to talk about with Sloan; the harmonies, the personalities, the rock and the pop. Are they better live or on record? Can Chris Murphy still jump as high as he used to? I always find the best Sloan conversations are about what the band means to people – who they saw what show with, what song played at their wedding, or that one time their junior high band covered “Underwhelmed” and got in trouble for using distortion. I’m sure you have a Sloan story, and I’m sure it involves the first show, crushing on Patrick, watching a kid you didn’t know excitedly jump on your bed to “Penpals” (okay, that one is a little specific) … My first Sloan show involved being kicked in the head in a mosh pit, breaking my fake Oakley sunglasses (or “Jokelys” as they were known in ’98) and losing track of my friend moments after this photo was taken, only to find her during Bif Naked’s set later that day. I’ve got a lot of other Sloan stories, but it all begins with watching the band jump around on Much Music, lovingly recreating a scene from a movie I’d never seen. I’ve always appreciated that they went to that trouble for all of us.