Formed in 1991 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sloan have been soldiering away ever since. They attracted some buzz in the early 90s with their classic guitar pop–at the time they were part of a small cluster of listenable Canadian indie acts like Zumpano and Eric’s Trip–but they’ve never had more than a cult following in this country. Now that Canada’s considered an indie-pop powerhouse, it’s easy to forget how starkly Sloan stood out back when we were inundated with the likes of Moxy Fruvous and the Tragically Hip. (I’m tempting fate here.)
Of course, simply being a diamond in a pile of shit 15 years ago does not a career make. I’ve enjoyed all of Sloan’s recordings, but to be honest I don’t think they compare with what’s rocking Canada these days, from Feist to Jason Collett to the New Pornographers (whose leader, Carl Newman, used to be in Zumpano). Last year the band released the aptly titled Never Hear the End of It, an album overstuffed with 30 songs (that’s what happens when all four members are prolific songwriters), and I have to admit that listening through the whole thing wore me out. Much better is the new Parallel Play (Yep Roc), which contains a much more manageable baker’s dozen. As usual hooky melodies proliferate, typically enhanced with sweet vocal harmonies, and tough contrapuntal guitar riffing spices up the sugar.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the same formula the band has always used. As much as I like any given Sloan album on its own, in my mind the group’s sizable oeuvre has become something of an undifferentiated mass, like one epic song with thousands of parts. And it doesn’t help that the band members have classic self-effacing indie-rock personas–that is, they let the music do all the talking. When they play tonight at Double Door, though, their set won’t even be as long as their last two albums combined–even if it does all sound like parts of the same huge song, it’ll be over before you get tired of it.
Thelonious Monk, It’s Monk’s Time (Columbia/Legacy)
Joi, Tennesse Slim Is the Bomb (Joilicious)
Chris Mills, Living in the Aftermath (Ernest Jennings)
Rita Lee, Build Up (Philips, Brazil)
Scott McLemore, Found Music (Fresh Sound New Talent)