It doesn’t seem like Sloan has been around for 20 years. Although the Canadian perennial favourite has seen plenty of action over the years and seems perpetually radio-ready, Sloan just doesn’t seem 20.
Bands that have been around for two decades seem old and Sloan is anything but. In fact, their exuberance and harmonies straight out of the 1960s make them seem perpetually young. Maybe that’s why Sloan has connected so strongly with Canadians for a generation: no matter how old the listener or the band gets, Sloan makes everyone connected to their music feel young.
Sloan first appeared on the scene back in 1991 in Halifax. The band, consisting of Chris Murphy, Jay Ferguson, Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott, is a very distinct power-pop band, and not because their music is one of a kind (although it is). They are distinct because their lineup has consisted of only Murphy, Ferguson, Pentland and Scott for the past twenty years with no breakups or departures. Also, all four musicians contribute to the songwriting. Such an egalitarian model for a band is extremely rare as is the fact that all four members have stuck together all these years. They may have had their rough patches in the past, but the band has weathered them together and is all the better for it.
Although Sloan has never achieved the international (i.e. American) success they deserve, the band has held a vast, passionate fan-base in Canada for the better part of two decades. In 1996, a reader poll in Chart! Magazine named Twice Removed, their 1994 album, the “Best Canadian Album of All-Time,” and the same poll in 2005 duplicated the result.
Their new album The Double Cross (released May 12 by Outside Music) doesn’t drift too far away from the fundamentals — the familiar Beatles-esque harmonies, rocking guitar chords and songs from all four members — and that’s not a bad thing. It may not be as ambitious as 2006’s Never Hear The End Of It, the thirty-song suite that redefined the band for the new millennium, but The Double Cross doesn’t seem stale or merely repetitive.
The thumping hi-hat hits at the beginning of album opener “Follow the Leader” are reminiscent of the guitar riff and hi-hat combo that starts “She Says What She Means” on 1998’s Navy Blues, but the song goes a direction that is distinctly its own. The similarity between the songs isn’t a signal that Sloan is repeating itself, but merely speaks to the band’s trust in the formula that has been successful all these years: electric openings, catchy hooks and the infectious energy of power-pop. The Double Cross is not Sloan’s best record, but its familiarity is appropriate for an album that acts as a celebration of everything we’ve grown to love about the band over the past 20 years.
To celebrate the release of their 10th album, Sloan is once again touring across North America. They stop by Saskatchewan at the end of May so be sure you’re in attendance when they light up the prairie music scene once again.
Sloan plays Louis’ on Sunday, May 29.