SLOAN (the Canadian Beatles) single by single - 1992 to now

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by finslaw, Feb 15, 2022.

  1. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Not sure how this will fair, but I encourage anyone to follow as we chronologically tour the 40 or so singles by Canadian darlings Sloan, as well as some conjecture of songs from their respective albums that could have been singles. I myself am not Canadian and hadn't heard of this band until some 15 years ago, but from there I have become a rabid fan of this talented, prolific, witty, various, catchy, fun and rocking band.

    For a forum that produces Beatles threads on an assembly line, there isn't too many threads about those who carried the flame without direct connection to that storied band. Of those of recent vintage it is hard not to see Sloan as the modern Beatles if you remove popularity as a yardstick, even though that is inevitably a disservice as a comparison. Both bands featured 4 distinct personalities who are not only uniquely gifted on their instruments but sing on nearly every record. However, Sloan is almost more Beatles than the Beatles (or substitute Queen/Blondie/BOC/Fleetwood Mac) in that all 4 members write unique songs (usually at least 2) for every album, except Andrew dropping out for one when he became a daddy. They also divide their wealth, or lack of, evenly. So, basically the most democratic band in existence. Here they are from the start until now:

    Chris Murphy - bass (and drums), the nasal voiced witty wordsmith, and most prolific.
    Patrick Pentland - guitar, the provider of the most popular riff laden lead single Canadian anthems.
    Jay Ferguson - guitar, the sweet voiced writer of catchy upbeat pop songs that could have hit 50 years ago.
    Andrew Scott - drums (and guitar), the gruff voiced wild card with quirky songs in a more Dylan mode.

    They have 12 albums (2 doubles) and a few EPs of mostly power pop/rock, but whereas The Beatles existed in a time of changing styles that they adapted to or begat, Sloan's main changes were un-tethered early on from flavors of the day. For that reason their music is mostly pretty timeless: a mix of indie, power-pop, and riffy rock that could live in several decades. That said, I'm going to jump out of the timeline briefly for an album track from 2006's double album Never Hear the End of It (their White album) which to me sounds like a Paul McCartney mini-suite if produced by Jeff Lynne with lyrics/singing more in line with angsty John:

    The song is a good start in explaining why some people here may have never heard of them, how the band feels about that and to show where the band is headed, because in going in chronological order the early singles coming up are easily the most out of the box.

    Anyone in on this?
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2022
  2. steviej

    steviej Forum Resident

    Calgary, AB
    One of my favourite bands, and one of the most consistent and reliable bands that I've ever seen.

    If anything, that consistency may have hurt them in press cycles because few albums since their commercial heyday really stand out among the rest, so it's hard to really drum up interest when a new album is released. They've tried by some creative choices (Never Hear The End Of It's song cycle, and Commonwealth's "four solo albums in one" approach), but 12 was basically ignored because it's "just another album," even though it's fantastic and as good as anything else since 2000 or so.

    Also, we Canadians have a huge and unfortunate tendency to undervalue our own talent. If Sloan was an American or British band, they would be indie darlings here, but we all know that they'll come through our city every year or two, so there's no real push or feeling of "Wow! I have to get out to see them!" The Tragically Hip very much suffered this same "curse" of continued success here, until Gord's illness became public, then I think everyone realized "wow, look what we've had this whole time!"

    Also, I think the consistent Beatles comparisons aren't always warranted. Yes, the band leaned very heavily into the Beatles aesthetic in the mid 90s, but Sloan is very much its own thing.

    I look forward to seeing where this thread goes and will try to add my own two cents when appropriate.
  3. Chemically altered

    Chemically altered Forum Resident

    Ukraine in Spirit
    Sloan rules!
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  4. wallpaperman

    wallpaperman Forum Resident

    Clever word placement in the thread title that will drive more traffic. ;)
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  5. smitquest

    smitquest Forum Resident

    Lancaster, NY, USA
    lol i love sloan as much as i love ANY current band - it's just that they're almost TOO good at what they do, and they KEEP ON DOING IT!

    every record is great, but...i just kind of grab 'em when i see 'em now.

    (totally admitting that i take these guys for granted a little bit.)

    Wolfschmidt, steviej and finslaw like this.
  6. Thrillsville

    Thrillsville Forum Resident

    Port Coquitlam, BC
    I've been a Sloan supporter since Day 2 (bought Smeared first after seeing "Underwhelmed" on MuchMusic and then Peppermint EP). I've bought each album (as CDs) as they were released but not singles. The only one I didn't pick up was Hit & Run EP as it was only available as a download originally and I wasn't doing that then. Just last weekend I finally purchased said EP from Bandcamp (as well as the bonus tracks from the vinyl box reissues of Twice Smeared, One Chord To Another, and Navy Blues).

    Whilst looking around to see what stray tracks there were I came across some very good interviews:
    Chris Murphy & Jay Ferguson talking about the One Chord To Another reissue as well as some interesting answers about the band's past and inner workings: Sloan talk being uncool, 'One Chord to Another' box set & tour & more in BV interview
    Patrick Pentland talking about 12 and also the band's dynamics: Sloan Are Better Than the Beatles, and Prove It on '12' | Exclaim!
    Chris Murphy talking about Commonwealth (the last answer talks about what could have happened early in the band's career): Sloan Interview
    Chris Murphy talking about 12 and some interesting answers about who plays what and when on each other's songs: Interview: Chris Murphy - Sloan, New Album | SoundVapors
  7. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Underwhelmed - 1992

    The band's first single and lead off song on their first album Smeared somehow already had 2 different incarnations, first on the Hear and Now comp and as the lead off of their debut EP Peppermint. As the music video makes apparent, this is the band in the swing of their living in Halifax signed to Geffen era going for the grunge/slacker look. As far as the sound, it isn't grunge, but it certainly more atypical noise alternative than their latter singles would be. The repetitive chord structure would seem a little dull if it weren't for Chris Murphy's masterful lyrics, which I can't help but derive dirty innuendos from. Is it just me? Affection has 2 F's? Even the eating meat "I just at my young" part is curious, but maybe a limb too far. Either way, the song has some of the best lyrics about romantic misunderstanding and clues the listener into Chris's "don't play me at scrabble" grammar police wordplay in both lyric and subject. Chris would dominate Smeared with 8 of the 12 songs by him, but the others would soon catch up. Underwhelmed would be their only appearance on the US Modern Rock Chart (#25) and only #1 on Canadian RPM chart. The song would open their A-Sides Win comp in 2005 and their Select Singles 1992-2011 comp (free if you just put in your email here Sloan - Toronto Based Rock Quartet )

    She was underwhelmed, if that's a word
    I know it's not, 'cause I looked it up
    That's one of those skills that I learned in my school
    I was overwhelmed, and I'm sure of that one
    'Cause I learned it back in grade school when I was young
    She said, "You is funny" I said, "You are funny"
    She said, "Thank you" and I said, "Nevermind"
    She rolled her eyes, her beautiful eyes
    The point is not the grammar it's the feeling
    That is certainly in my heart
    But not in hers (x5)

    We were talkin' about people that eat meat
    I felt like an ass 'cause I was one
    She said, "It's okay," but I felt like I just ate my young
    She is obviously a person with a cause
    I told her that I don't smoke or drink
    She told me to loosen up on her way to the L.C.
    She skips her classes and gets good grades
    I go to my courses rain or shine
    She's passin' her classes while I attend mine
    While I attend mine (x4)

    She wrote out a story about her life
    I think it included somethin' about me
    I'm not sure of that, but I'm sure of one thing, her spelling's atrocious
    She told me to read between the lines and tell her exactly what I got out of it
    I told her affection had two F's, specially when you're dealin' with me
    I usually notice all the little things
    One time I was proud of it, she says it's annoying
    She cursed me up and down and rolled her R's, her beautiful R's
    She says I'm caught up in triviality
    All I really wanna know is what she thinks of me
    I think my love for her makes me miss the point
    I miss the point, I miss the point
    I miss the point, hey mister
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2022
  8. dance_hall_keeper

    dance_hall_keeper Forum Resident

    Clever word placement in the thread title that will drive more people over the edge.
    Amnion likes this.
  9. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Ooooh. Clever AND edgy. But really, who else would qualify? The Band? The Guess Who? I agree that The Beatles comparison can be too much, but then again it fits in ways other bands don't because they only had one driving songwriter or singer. Sloan has 4 distinct personalities that are not as easily pegged as "the angsty confessional rocker, the poppy productive tunesmith, the quiet spiritual one and the dorky one with the big nose." Both bands have a total of 12 albums (so far), a double album (Sloan has 2) and sections of song cycles. Heck, even both super talented bassists hit the skins time to time. Sure Sloan is its own entity, but wouldn't the modern Beatles have to be? To be more similar, and therefore redundant, would be counter to what The Beatles were in the 60's.

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2022
    Ryan Lux likes this.
  10. wildstar

    wildstar Senior Member

    ontario, canada
    I know that the 'Never Hear The End Of It' CD had 30 songs on it, but I could have sworn that none of them were called "Video Unavailable".

    I also know that a lot of the songs on the album are very short (they'd need to be to fit all 30 songs onto one CD) but I don't remember any of them being THAT short (the video you linked seems to be about zero minutes and zero seconds long).

    Seriously though, what song were you trying to post?
    finslaw likes this.
  11. egebamyasi

    egebamyasi Forum Resident

    Worcester, MA
    I have the albums from the debut through Between The Bridges and One Chord Leads To Another (including the bonus "live" CD) is my favorite. I saw them on the One Chord anniversary tour. All four members write and sing excellent songs.
    Underwhelmed should be a classic (it is to me) like Smells Like Teen Spirit or maybe one of those Blue album hits by Weezer. Maybe it's just for music nerds and doesn't have mass appeal. A GREAT SONG.
  12. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Fading into Obscurity. Odd it isn't popping up, because the youtube link is actually from their own sloanmusic channel

    I think the Weezer comparison is apt because Underwhelmed has that definite Buddy Holly nerd thing going on, plus both bands had 2 atypical albums before hitting their stride (for better or worse) from then on. But of the other songs you mentioned, Underwhelmed easily has the smartest (and IMO best) lyrics.
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  13. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter


    Here is the version of Underwhelmed from the prior EP Peppermint, which apparently got a music video too. The cover of the EP is a photo of their friend who got nicknamed "slow one" by his boss, and when asked if they could use "Sloan" he said "yeah, if you put me on the front cover." Not sure if they knew their name would be recalled at urinals across the states.

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  14. wildstar

    wildstar Senior Member

    ontario, canada
    Favorite Sloan member in what way?

    Musically (judging by each member's best stuff) I'd rate them as:

    1 - Pentland is way out in front as he provides all of their best riff rocking power pop tunes (which also happen to be most of their biggest hits).

    2 - Scott is a not so close second. One thing I like is his clever lyrical wordplay.

    3 - Murphy is their originally most prolific member, but his stuff never grabbed me overall as much as the above members, and I find some of his lyrics overshooting the mark past clever and into kind of stupid. Of course there are obviously exceptions to that overgeneralization in his catalog of songs, and he along with Pentland obviously have the best singing voices in the band....

    4 - ...which brings us to Ferguson whose voice honestly ain't great, as its kind of weak in power and presence, and he can be quite pitchy at times, which probably explains why he never sings in the multipart harmonies live (their live keyboard player sings what should be Ferguson's parts of the vocal harmonies live. I first noticed his pitchiness from live youtube videos and after I noticed that, I started to notice it (to a much lesser extent of course) on some of the studio records as well. Having said all that, as a songwriter he's grown by leaps and bounds since the band started, and his material probably has more stylistic variety than any of them (or possibly even all of them put together).

    If we're talking favorite Sloan member as far as personalities - well before I get into that, there was a video on youtube (maybe its still there?) where Ferguson was talking with someone for some reason about the TV show 'Happy Days' and he said who the counterpart to each character would be in Sloan. He said he would be Ritchie, Scott would be 'The Fonz' and Pentland would be "Mr C." ...and, you know what? I can totally see it. He didn't assign a character to Murphy, but I'd say he'd fit somewhere in between being the Potsie/Ralph Malph of the band.

    Anyway my favorites by personalities:

    1 - Murphy - more or less the band's spokesman (ie he loves to talk) and he can be quite funny
    2 - Ferguson - but mostly when paired with Murphy (which he often is) in interviews (they seem the tightest members as friends).
    3 - Scott - can be funny at times, but is mostly quiet and "cool" like 'The Fonz' :thumbsup:
    4 - Pentland - I'd place him last by default since going by his public face, he doesn't seem to have a personality (I'm not sure if I even know what his speaking voice sounds like - OK that's an exaggeration - but not by much).
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2022
  15. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Luckily those are the 2 that hang out with fans after gigs. I will never forget seeing them 2 consecutive years in Indianapolis (apparently their last tour stop before going home) at a venue with only 50 or so people, and getting to chat with Chris about the 3 musicians he geeked out the most seeing (Kiss, Burton Cumming, Cheap Trick) as well as Jay talking about Jeff Lynne and ELO's Time. My dad even butted in with perfect eye-rolling Spinal Tap style on a band in Nova Scotia that Jay should go see when they get back. In both cases I wasn't rushed to rap it up at all, and even ducked out early with Chris, but more out of star struck "you must have something better to do?"

    To show how funny these guys are, check out their first ode to the armpit of Oregon (they did 2 more):

    Musically I would go:

    1) Chris - yes, he can get too clever, but then comes up with "do you have another jump I can hoop through?" or a genius idea like Penpals or Set in Motion. His writing is the most diary oriented.
    2) Jay - the most consistent provider of earworms, and I like his voice. He is the one who can get me most nostalgic.
    3) Patrick - the most angry/angsty one, especially lately. I can't deny his big anthems, but I wish he'd do more non-rocker stuff like I Can Feel It. His voice seems a little less distinct than Jay or Chris.
    4) Andrew - I use to downgrade his stuff much more than I do now, his presence is greatly needed seeing how his song tempos alone help vary the albums. I like his wordplay, but I've always been stuck up about needing creative chord progressions, which his are the more basic.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2022
  16. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    I could have gone with album by album but one was done a while ago (though it is now locked.) Plus, Sloan has made mostly good choices for singles IMO.

    Any other opinions on Underwhelmed?
  17. Stillin Rockville

    Stillin Rockville "it's not the band, it's the fans"

    a farm in Iowa
    In 1992 the big satellite dish was still picking up MuchMusic, which hadn't yet devolved into 'reality tv' and I remember thinking "this sounds *good* but the lead singer is way too full of himself". "Underwhelmed" rolls and surges along and I liked the little vibrating effect the guitars pick up about a minute in, and also that last 30 second sprint to the end.

    In the next year or two so many things changed and I lost track of Sloan til this winter when I started wandering through their catalog. The things about "Underwhelmed" that strike me now are how sharp Chris's lyrics were and, watching the video, how impossibly young they look.

    Anyway, I hope this thread takes off, thanks for starting it.
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  18. Past Masters

    Past Masters Beatles Fanthologist

    "...but I felt like I just ate my yoouunng-uh!"

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  19. Leugi

    Leugi Forum Resident

    First I heard of them was their song on the DGC record label cd sampler
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  20. Liam Brown

    Liam Brown Forum Resident

    I was living in Atlantic Canada in the early 90's and witnessed Sloan's emergence. In my first year of university I saw Jay and Chris' previous band Kearney Lake Road when they played in Fredericton with the band of some friends of mine. When that Peppermint version video of Underwhelmed came out and they signed to DGC it was a big moment. That, combined with Nirvana, seemed to change everything over night. Bands were everywhere, all ages shows became cool, it was exciting. I ended up in a band with a cousin of one the Sloan guys, who would send him his demos that the cousin would play for us while we drove to gigs. The one I remember the most was "Autobiography" which we heard long before it was recorded on One Chord to Another. Sloan helped so many bands in that part of Canada, they really worked on building a scene. They were very inspiring.
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  21. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Underwhelmed lyrics read like poetry by Jason Falkner, Jason Schwartzman, Butch Walker, Dave Foley and others:

  22. ElevateMeLater

    ElevateMeLater Jesus of Cool

    I am so in. I swear Sloan is a Sparks Brothers-esque documentary away from no longer being an open secret that they're one of the best and most consistent bands ever. I feel like a new album's gotta be coming soon. 12 was a great album and already 4 years ago?
  23. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears Thread Starter

    Sugartune - Patrick 1993 #4 RPM chart

    Sloan chose well with Underwhelmed as their debut single, some even consider it their signature song today. However, music-wise it seems atypical. Sloan's followup was Sugartune, Patrick's only song on Smeared and a recording that was virtually the same as the one on their Peppermint EP. Of all the songs on their debut album I feel like this one points more to the future, and it is Patrick's first instance of a mid-tempo riffy rocker which would soon become his bread and butter.

    I like this song a lot, even if it gets lost in the mix sometimes. A lot of power in that riff and drumming, plus a catchy melody done one better by the "I know when everyone has got one" section. Instead of a guitar solo the song has a curious ghostly "oooh" vocal solo section before it sprints to the end. All in all, the fore-bearer of Money City Maniacs, If it Feels Good Do It, Ill Placed Trust and Unkind. I give it a B.

    I wrote for you this sugartune
    To help you through what you've gotta do
    When you're on the ground, and keep fallin' down
    Remember how I made this sound
    Sound, sound, sound, sound

    When you're on your own, feeling all alone
    Remember that you've always got a home
    I'm outside, tryin' hard to hide
    The fact that I'm scared to be by your side
    I know when everybody's got one
    You want one too

    I wrote for you this sugartune
    To help you through what you've gotta do
    When you're on the ground, and keep fallin' down
    Remember how I made this sound
    Sound, sound, sound, sound
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  24. CybrKhatru

    CybrKhatru Music is life.

    Los Angeles
    I'm going to follow this thread and eventually chime in... I'm a somewhat recent convert to Sloan.
    finslaw likes this.
  25. intv7

    intv7 Senior Member

    Boston, MA, USA
    "Underwhelmed" is probably the best track on Smeared, but I think they had yet to figure out who they were here -- and it wasn't until after the third album that they really even established that. Lyrically, "Underwhelmed" is one of my favorites, but musically it's kind of stuck in its era. Most of their catalog has more of a timeless feel.

    "Sugartune" is one of Patrick's better songs from this period. Again, it's kinda "of its time". Solid tune on an album I consider to be uneven and somewhat pandering at times.
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