And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': October 2006

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Truth Is In The Title
Reviewer: MM

About 2 weeks ago, on my birthday actually, I purchased the newest
Sloan album 'Never Hear The End Of It' as I was alerted via a mutual
myspace friend that the album was, in fact, out after a long array of
speculation and rumour. For 12.99 at the capitalist monster Best Buy,
I picked up the new 30 song disc with much fear and anticipation of
great things. So with the miracle of a birthday candle-cake wish, I
was not disappointed. The title of this album has more truth to it
than you would think, in the sense that I bought it on the 23rd...
and I literally JUST heard the end of a it a few days ago.

I think what irked me most about Sloan's last few albums (Action Pact

and Pretty Together) was a sense of pride versus popularity; Though
their distinctive sound was still there in many noticeable forms, Sloan
were starting to break out from the middle ground of many mid-range
bands and their material seemed to be progressing, in terms of studio
production and mastering, but lackening in terms of intellectual depth,
lyrical topics and witty punchlines and choruses. Before I begin the
current review, however, I am feeling the need to become a little
tangential with some much needed background knowledge concerning
my connection with Sloan. For years, one of my best friends Jeff
listened to Sloan from their earliest beginnings (I believe even before
Sloan was Sloan and were called Kearney Lake Road) and raved not
only about the musical talent and depth of the band but the richly
diverse and unique singing and writing styles among the four members.
Jeff's long time allegiance to Sloan goes deeper than most, even before
their earliest slated release of the Peppermint EP and I really only have
him to thank for introducing me to the wonder, artistry and the
monstrosity of this band. But again, before we move forward to the
review, perhaps we should make a lateral move to give a little more
background of what's going on here.

Sloan is four members. You see, there's Chris, Patrick, Jay and Andrew.

Chris is the stage showman, funnyman and usually the most prevalent
songwriter on any given album (and NHTEOI is no exception). He has
a penchant for excellent rhythmic basswork, high range vocalizing,
losing his glasses on stage several times during a show and playing
'wild animal' drums for Andrew's songs. Chris's songs have been
described as 'potboilers' - whatever is happening, he throws a wrench
into either through his high-range breakout vocalization or his wild
drumming and stage antics. Though he does have a contemplative
side, Chris is best seen as a livewire rocker who propels the motion
of Sloan through his multi-pronged songs and ever-creative
harmonies. Patrick has the sound of a leather jacket motorcycle rocker
who loves his wa pedal and loudly distorted driving guitars but still
shows a mellow tamer side. Patrick's songs usually get more radioplay
than any other member's songs because they are short, rocky, catchy
and kick-ass. Now we shoot the gap from 'classic rock' to 'indie weird'
where Jay is the bridge. Jay is not only a different style of songwriter
than Chris and Patrick in his high 'Monkees' style pop-ballad vocal
inflection but representationally, he is the other side of Sloan. Jay has
written and recorded songs for Sloan that could be classified in an
array of different styles, from disco to crooning to retro rock to even
metal. His vocals are the easiest to identify and perhaps the most
soothing of the group. Jay, in a radio interview from CBC that my
friend Jeff had taped, was described by Chris Murphy as being the
one in the band whose idea of a romantic evening would be 'sitting
cross-legged, on a throw rug, listening to old 45 records and eating
jellybeans'. Finally, we shoot the gap and arrive at Andrew. Andrew's
songwriting is the most distinctly separate from the rest of the band
but perhaps the most prolifically grandiose. Aside from being an
excellent drummer, he also has a tendency towards certain lyrical
themes throughout a given set of songs, mainly in the genres of
Nautical, Aviation, Cinema and Track and Field. Andrew loves
wordplay, a good wailing distorted guitar solo through his vintage
hollowbody, and forcing Chris Murphy to play the drums in a zone
that is far beyond his trap-hitting abilities. The funny thing is that
Chris, being a secondary drummer, is still a better drummer than
most bands' lead drummers. Can we say 'Talent' boys and girls?

From Track 1 of the new album, my ears were alight with a retro rock

organ playing amidst a feel good tune called 'Flying High Again'. The
song is not only groovy in its feel and classic intermittent signature
harmonies, but one also would get the picture from the words that the
band is really united again and doing what they love in a refreshed and
vitalized form and they really don't care what anyone thinks; "We're
Flying High...and some people think we're crazy". Ironically, Chris, Andy,
Patrick and Jay all contribute a verse vocally giving a real sense of unity
within Sloan. Track 2 picks right up with the slam-bam, arena-rock
anthem 'Who Taught You To Live Like That' strangely sung by Jay
who usually sticks to the more sentimental poppy tunes. 'Listen To The
Radio' shows a softer, more sedate side of Patrick, waxing eloquent about
the weird world of the radio airwaves that is both exciting and lonely all
at the same time. 'Fading Into Obscurity' is a multi-faceted Chris Murphy
track that die hard Sloan fans have been waiting on for a long, long while.
It shows his lyrical prowess but also his musical mastery, as the visible
band leader, in all the separate pieces that form the whole of the song. I
will pick up more on that song in a moment, but for the most part, this
album is a fresh fish in a pond that was starting to lose my interest. The
only downfall would probably be the fact that this could have been an
album of about 20-23 amazingly crafted songs but there were a few in the
middle that began to lose me. Overall though, I cannot deny the newly
found joy of this disc. I would recommend to any of my friends, whether
Sloan fans or not, to pick it up and give it a spin. It's not a perfect
score, but pretty close. 9/10

ODDLY ENOUGH, I just saw Sloan live last night in St. Catharines, my

hometown. That's right. They played a show last night. Sloan. The
band I just reviewed. No one really seemed to know about it as there were
less than 100 people there, but with a drummer friend of mine (Robbie) who
is doing his own music stuff these days, and myself as somewhat of a
musician in the crowd, we stood and watched like students in a class of
our favourite teachers. Though they were a little more reserved than I have
seen them in the past, they still know how to rock hard. The show wasn't
amazing - it wasn't the best I've seen them play but it also wasn't the worst
- It was Sloan. Just a few lads from Halifax who vowed long ago not to
sell out to David Geffen's enterprise and become 'the Canadian Nirvana'
but to stay true to their sound, their style and their audience. Talking to
Chris Murphy after the show, who Robbie has become fast friends with
and whose name even got dropped during the last song ('my boy Robbie
from Tin Bangs'), we discussed some Halifax connections but also the
annoyance of playing shows in Southwestern Ontario. Chris said jokingly
'Like, what the hell is that about? An hour away from our home town
(Toronto) and less than a hundred people show up? I guess that's it.
I guess we're done.' Chris digressed, however, and did make mention of
the promise of at least a solid group of fans and good peeps staying to
talk after the show, and the notion that these are the kind of fans he
wants to buy their records have at their shows. To be sure, Us Sloaners
do not want to see our band fade into obscurity, as Chris's song
might suggest, but to Fly High Again.

They played mostly new material, which was nice, but I was still hoping

for some Andrew mammoths like 'Sensory Deprivation' and old live classics
like 'I Am The Cancer' but alas, it was not the night for such activities.
I also enjoyed the accent of the newest member, Greg MacDonald, who
added various keys, vocals and percussive strokes of brilliance to the
already sparkling sound. Sloan's fifth member seems to be fitting in
just fine.

Earlier yesterday, and by random chance, I saw Sloan's tour bus pull up to
the L3 liquid lounge on my lunch break. Their manager Mike stepped off the
bus and seemed aloof, trying to get into the obviously locked bar. I talked
to him for a few moments, inquiring how to get tickets and possibly giving
him one of my cd's at the show which interested him, but I did not have an
opportunity to do as such last night. The whole scene of events - the bus,
the actual show - seemed like it didn't really happen. This sleepy Niagara
town really has little or no scene, and last night was a confirmation of that
truth. As a straggler outside the bar said truthfully before the show "You
see, a good band like Sloan comes to this town and no one shows UP!" It
also makes me feel a little more human to see a band who has
been doing their thing nationally for 15 years make a miss once in a while.
They've been around, though, and I'm sure they've survived much worse
than a small fan showing at one little stop on a tour. Hopefully, though,
for the real Sloan fan in all of us, and for the prosperity
of a good band, we really will 'Never Hear The End Of It'.

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