Sloan: 25 Years Of Rock Excellence And Counting



It’s hard to know for sure why Sloan has been so criminally under-appreciated in its 25-year history as a band. Surely part of the problem is that they’re Canadian, which tends to mean that American outlets give them a bit of a short shrift, not maliciously but that’s just the way it goes when you’re awash in an ocean of music Stateside. Furthermore, Sloan is very Canadian, meaning that they’re very self-effacing and humble, two unhelpful qualities when you’re trying to attract attention to your band.

On top of all that, Sloan can lay claim to possibly the most democratic Rock band dynamic ever. Talk about spreading things around evenly, show me another band where not only do three of the four members share lead vocals equally, but where all four share songwriting duties equally, virtually ego-free. If these guys were any more Canadian they’d be apologizing to audiences for being too loud.

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And they could really blast it with the best of the Grunge-era bands they grew up together with in the early Nineties, and at the end of the day I think Sloan ended up being better than all but one or two of them. Their advantage comes from the diversity of sound that three lead singers and four songwriters can bring to a band. Over the years they have skillfully and confidently had a go at just about every Pop/Rock style that was ever invented and pulled them all off convincingly. There’s nothing they can’t do, Rockwise.

Not surprisingly, their new album 12 delivers more of the same excellence we’ve come to expect. It’s their twelfth album and it contains twelve songs, three by each writer. Having multiple songwriters not only keeps the songs diverse, it also wards off complacency by fostering a friendly competition to keep one-upping each other. These are all well-crafted songs, each one offering a twist of some sort to keep it sounding fresh and original.

“Spin Our Wheels” starts off as the most basic sounding Pop/Rock track, but it’s got some smart chord and melodic changes in the pre-chorus sections, just enough to distinguish it from anything else. “Right To Roam” is a sprightly Folk Rock delight spotlighting Sloan’s brilliant vocal skills, while “44 Teenagers”, a thoughtful middle-aged reflection on youth, starts off sounding like Pink Floyd before gaining steam on a grotty guitar line.

This is a band that consistently delivers the goods, album in, album out. Maybe the problem is they’re just too damn consistent. Maybe they would have been better appreciated if they had flamed out spectacularly a few times along the way, because the peaks always look higher from the valleys. On the other hand, consistency means you can’t go wrong with a Sloan album, and we’ll submit this one as exhibit 12.

Photo credit: Linda Heldman [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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