Earlier this month I had the opportunity to renew my vows with the Canadian phenomenon known as Sloan. Sloan is a band originally hailing from the province of Nova Scotia, and they also happen to be the group I have seen the most often live – I am verging on my seventh or eighth Sloan concert.
I originally fell in love with the band at the tender age of 16, when random chance brought me to my first ever Sloan show. I was visiting my best friend in Aylmer, Quebec and his older brother asked if we wanted to tag along to a show that Saturday night in Ottawa. I had by that time heard the song Penpals, but I was completely unaware that that was their second album, or that Underwhelmed even existed. The concert took place in a large open hall with no seating whatsoever, and I remembered being dazzled by the energy of the group, by the way they all seemed to be constantly swapping instruments with each other, and by the fact that they brought a random girl out of the audience and had her play bass on one of their songs.
I was hooked. I went out and bought the Twice Removed album the next day and listened to it obsessively, enjoying almost every track which was rare for me at that age. I eventually learned that the reason the band switched instruments on stage was due to the songwriting arrangement that saw each member contribute their own tracks. I also found out that their first album – the previously mentioned Smeared – was in a significantly different musical vein than Twice Removed, erecting a barrier between the former’s distorted guitars and the latter’s harmonic pop that it would take me years to overcome.
For Sloan, record label Geffen’s reverse-appraisal of the situation (they had been hoping for Smeared II and were instead handed one of the best pop albums of all time according to two independent Chart magazine surveys almost ten years apart) meant that they were about to be dropped from the mainstream of American music. This sent them wandering on their own unique path, a fact that has seen them produce some of the most impressive and diverse music ever to come out of Canada.