One of my favourite bands of all time is Sloan.

I saw the video for the Peppermint EP version of “Underwhelmed” on “The Wedge” (A show on Much Music, back when Much Music had music. Amazingly, much of it) way back when it was hosted by Simon Evans.

A side note here; the Wedge was the alternative music show on Much Music. The first time I ever heard bands like Black Flag or Green Jello or Whale or Skinny Puppy was on the Wedge. It was also a terribly produced show, with schizophrenic, seizure-inducing graphics and no flow from one artist to the next. Treble Charger’s “Morale” with lead into “Liar” from Rollins Band, shit like that. Add to the mix that Simon Evans looked like “Cool Dad at a rock concert” just made it that much stranger. He always looked like he was pushing 40, rocking a jean jacket and spiking his hair. But the music was usually good and always interesting.

Anyways, back to Sloan. Sloan was this smarmy, clever, Canadian alternative rock band from the maritimes, and “Underwhelmed” sang about smart pretty girls that they then alienated for reasons they couldn’t quite grasp.

So it’s safe to say, “they really got me”.

Sloan’s early albums, Smeared, Twice Removed and One Chord to Another were all staples of radio and Much Music (they had a song on the insanely popular first “Big Shiny Tunes” CD). A mix of appeal, a pop-grunge scene out of Halifax and Canadian content broadcast laws helped to make the band inescapable for a few years. And I followed them, buying CD after CD, even after their universal appeal faded.

“Action Pact” is Sloan’s seventh studio album, released in 2003 on the strength of the first single “Rest of My Life”, which no one liked. I tried to like it, but I didn’t, and the media seemed to chew it up and spit it out. The rest of the record also fell flat for me. It seemed like my band had gotten old, singing about mature problems that I, at 24 years old, could not care less about. I took the CD and put it in my CD binder next to all my other Sloan CDs and didn’t listen to it again.

Until this week, when I ripped it to my iPhone and have been listening to it all week long. Here’s how the tracks break down:

  • “Gimme That” – The lead off track is a polished rock ‘n roll song. You can already hear the change in production here since they moved out to California. It doesn’t matter much, as this is decent travelling music.
  • “Live On” – Again, sounding much more polished than the Sloan I knew. Harmonies are super soft and balanced in the back. These first two songs don’t really say much of anything, but rather seem like they’re just there to rock out to. That’s not bad, they are what they are.
  • “Backstabbin'” – I don’t get this song. It’s repetitive and shitty. It was back then, and I still think so today.
  • “The Rest of My Life” – God this fucking song. It’s such a thirty-something’s song. “Am I gonna settle down, am I gonna be someone who has to take the rest of my life to settle down?” Fuck off. It’s time you manned up and figured out your fucking life. This song is written to pander, but it reaches to broadly and slides too far away from alternative rock.
  • “False Alarm” – This song sounds like the Sloan I like. A little dirty, a little sing-song-y, and chugging guitars and drums that push through. I think it makes me relate to a short relationship I had between the release of the album and meeting my wife.
  • “Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore” – This song is also such a thirty-something’s song, but it’s not terrible or saccharine. It’s totally about looking backwards, and that’s something I see more now that I’m older in myself, and also a theme I would have dismissed completely at 24.
  • “Hollow Head” – This one sounds like a Halifax song and not a California song. Lots of feedback-y distortion of the guitar and it could easily have been by Treble Charger or Limblifter.
  • “Ready for You” – This is arena rock, aping everyone or anyone from KISS to Bon Jovi. Doesn’t even sound like a Sloan song.
  • “I Was Wrong” – Apology songs just can’t appeal to young people. I’m old enough now to have plenty to be sorry for.
  • “Who Loves Life More?” – This song opens with the line “Stayed up one night, until late in the evening. I had so much fun.” At thirty-six and with a not-yet two year old boy here at home, I can totally appreciate the joys of finally being able to stay up until “late evening” and not just crashing out at 9PM.
  • “Reach Out” – This song is about reaching out. Every time they say “reach out”, drink. Then go to bed, because you’ve got work in the morning.
  • “Fade Away” – Remember 70’s rock? Sloan does. “Everybody seems content to fade away” just screams of being in your thirties, though. It’s not a bad song, but what a weird sentiment to end the record with, especially since this was supposed to be the record that was gonna break you into the big American market.

The members of Sloan are all almost exactly ten years older than I am, so listening to this record eleven or so years later puts me in a head space a little bit closer to the auteurs, here. It also makes me feel fucking old, to realize now that I can identify with music that 24 year old me thought was lame.

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