chris murphy

REVIEW: Sloan – “Stood Up” / “Same Old Flame” (1995 7″ single)

SLOAN – “Stood Up” / “Same Old Flame” (1995 murderecords 7″ single)

Though those without the syrup of the Mighty Maple flowing through their veins might not be familiar with Sloan, there are some who consider the east-coast quartet to be Canada’s greatest rock band.  With four writers / singers / instrumentalists, it’s an argument with some merit.  Though some say they are too sloppy live, in the studio they have some truly shining diamonds.  Some of those gems aren’t even from albums.

1995 was a difficult time for Sloan.  After receiving no support from Geffen for their shoulda-been breakthrough album Twice Removed, the band either broke up, or were about to break up, or considered themselves broken up even though they weren’t.  The double A-sided “Stood Up” and “Same Old Flame” single comes from this murky period in their timeline, released on their own label murderecords.  (In Japan, these two songs were included as bonus tracks on their third full length CD, One Chord to Another.)

“Stood Up” is a Chris Murphy number with a catchy tremolo guitar hook.  The lo-fi recording is so tasty.  Sloan’s usual vocal harmonies create the melodic blend you expect, but that relentless guitar groove is center stage.  Not dark, but shady, with energetic shouts.  By contrast, Patrick Pentland’s “Same Old Flame” is light and upbeat.  The fun verses set up a more plaintive chorus, all danceable.  Though both songs are equally strong, it’s “Same Old Flame” that you will singing and tapping your feet to.

For only $7, I found this single at yet another record show in Guelph with my buddy Peter.  Today it sells for twice that.  Though I hoped to find more than just one Sloan single that day (“Rhodes Jam” still eludes me), at least I left with what I came for.  A great single for any Sloan collection, big or small.  An essential one in fact, now that everybody is into vinyl again as their primary format.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Sloan – “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas” / “December 25” (2016 single)

SLOAN“Kids Come Back Again at Christmas” / “December 25” (2016 murderecords 7″ single)

This record arrived at LeBrain HQ almost a year ago — too late to include with last year’s Christmas reviews.  So, not only did I wait until today to review it, I actually waited until today to even open it!  This record is courtesy of James from the KMA, a superfine guy who always hooks me up with the latest Sloan rarities.  This 7″ single released on murderecords certainly qualifies.

The record is packaged not only with a download code, but also four unique Christmas cards and even little red envelopes for them.  I would never deface these collectables and send them out; to me they are part of the single.  Each card has a relevant Sloan lyric inside, such as “I’m just walking around, I made that snowsuit sound.”

Both seasonal songs are originals.  Chris Murphy takes the first lead vocal on “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas”, a bright piano-based Sloan number.  Bells and chimes make it sound seasonal, but otherwise it’s good old mid-tempo Sloan pop rock.  “December 25” is led by the vocals of Jay Ferguson.  Jay’s material is often laid back and more contemplative.  Both tracks have certain Sloan trademarks, such as strong melodies, backing vocals, and an old-fashioned no-frills approach.  All instruments are played by the band, with nothing extraneous added like you often find in Christmas rock tunes.

Two catchy songs, a cool limited edition package, and vinyl.  Sounds good to me.

4/5 stars

#500: 500 Up

Holy craaap! It’s chapter 500 of Record Store Tales/Getting More Tale! Chapter one (“Run to the Hills“) was posted on March 9, 2012. Over four years and 500 chapters later, we are still rocking.  If you’ve been here since day one, then you rule.  If you’re new, then stay tuned because the stories are far from over!

500 up


A little four-piece band from Halifax formed in 1991, at an art school.  Hardly the kind of thing to make history, but they strove to make history just the same.  Another art school band in the 1990’s?  Who needed that?

They named themselves after a friend who had the nickname “Slow One”.  Within a few months, the band known as “Sloan” had recorded and released their first EP, peppermint.   Their debut single “Underwhelmed” began to make waves on MuchMusic and the buzz was building.  Sloan’s secret weapon was the sheer talent of the four members.  Not only were all four lead singers in their own right, but also multi-instrumentalists.  Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Andrew Scott and Jay Ferguson were more than capable of playing whatever music they envisioned.   In 1992, Sloan signed to Geffen.

Sloan’s debut album Smeared boasted a couple hit singles:  a re-recorded “Underwhelmed”, and a song called “500 Up” featuring lead vocals by Patrick Pentland and drummer Andrew Scott.  A few album tracks such as “Sugartune” and “I am the Cancer” gave the album some depth, but it wasn’t until their crucial second LP that Sloan really broke some serious artistic ground.

“500 Up”

Unfortunately that second album, the brilliant Twice Removed, was engulfed in problems.  Chart magazine called it “the best Canadian album of all time”, in 1996.  Geffen however was unwilling to promote it.  They would have preferred if the band remained an alterna-grunge darling, rather than explore the lush sounds of Twice Removed.

The band went on hiatus and somehow managed to extricate themselves from their contract with Geffen.  A brilliant single (“Stood Up”/”Same Old Flame”) released on their own Murderecords let the die-hards know they weren’t dead, although the impression in mainstream circles was that the band had folded.   They were actually hard at work, recording yet another album for just $10,000 in only two weeks.

That album, the critically hailed One Chord to Another, cemented Sloan as a force to be reckoned with in Canada.  Three brilliant singles including the hard edged “The Good in Everyone” ensured Sloan lots of air play in 1996.  But it was 1998’s Navy Blues that hooked me in.

There was a palpable buzz in the air.  Customers were asking about the new Sloan song “Money City Maniacs”, a hard edged rocker often compared to “Firehouse” by Kiss.  Some people know it as the “goat piss” song due to one of the commonly misheard lyrics in the song:  “And the joke is, when he awoke his body was covered in Coke fizz.”  Coke fizz, goat piss:  Same difference right?

“Money City Maniacs”

Upon release, we gave Navy Blues daily store play.  I can all but guarantee that album was played in one of our stores each and every day upon release in ’98.  Although it was not as well received critically as the prior two Sloan albums, it did go gold and earned a Juno nomination for Best Rock Album.

Even though Navy Blues was the first Sloan album I bought, I didn’t become a full-fledged Sloan fanatic until they did the inevitable double live album.  Sloan are Kiss fans and classic rock fans, so a double live was all but inevitable.  It’s only appropriate that this is the album that cemented my fandom.

4 Nights at the Palais Royale was recorded in Toronto, and the full tally was 28 great all-original songs over the course of almost two hours.  It is simply one of the greatest live albums I’ve ever heard:  fun, very live sounding, with loads of audience participation.  The band consider it representative of a typical Sloan show, and you can hear both their sloppy rock chops and lush pop vocalizing.  It’s all there.  The package was brilliant, stuffed with photos and liner notes from the band.  If one can claim a single moment when Sloan “arrived”, I would argue for 4 Nights at the Palais Royale as that moment.   Talk about being on a roll:  the even managed to release another studio album that year!  (My favourite one, Between the Bridges.)

Now completely addicted to Sloan, I bought all the albums, and then soon upgraded them.  During a trip to Toronto in 1999, I headed over to the once-big HMV on Yonge and bought all the Japanese versions of the Sloan albums, with bonus B-sides added.  It was quite a haul and a brilliant score.  Like any good classic rock band, they have a number of B-sides that are as good as the hits.  I still have these; it is hard to find Sloan singles, but worthwhile.  Some of their most interesting material exist on B-sides, such as the aforementioned “Stood Up”/”Same Old Flame” and the impossible to find instrumental “Rhodes Jam”.  (I’m still missing that one.)

Though the Sloan story continues on today with 11 albums and a 25th anniversary tour, my story peaks here.  That double live album remains the high water mark for this fan.  It’s a time machine.  Upon hitting play I am instantly transported back in time.   What a glorious summer that was.  As it turned out, 4 Nights at the Palais Royale is the exact same length as a drive to the cottage.  As such it got car play almost every single trip.  Even my grandmother liked it.

On the occasion of this 500th instalment of Record Store Tales/Getting More Tale, I encourage everyone to check out some Sloan.  Not only an incredible band, but Canadian, eh?


Selected Discography

1992 Peppermint (EP)
1992 Smeared
1994 Twice Removed
1996 One Chord to Another
1998 Navy Blues
1999 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (live)
1999 Between the Bridges
2001 Pretty Together
2003 Action Pact
2005 A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 (best of)
2006 Never Hear the End of It
2008 Parallel Play
2009 Hit & Run (download-only EP)
2010 B Sides Win: extras, bonus tracks and b-sides 1992-2008 (download-only compilation)
2011 The Double Cross
2014 Commonwealth

REVIEW: Sloan – peppermint (1992 EP)

SLOAN – peppermint (1992 murderecords EP)

I’m not a big fan of early Sloan.  I rarely listen to the first album Smeared (haven’t played it in years despite having two great singles on it).   I don’t really get into Sloan until their second album, the magnum opus Twice Removed.  I didn’t like them back then in 1992 at all; Sloan were the enemy.  A bunch of glasses-wearing short-hairs who pouted and didn’t play a lot of solos.  The antithesis to what I liked; and the Canadian embodiment of the kind of thing that was killing off my kind of music like a cancer!

So there’s that.  Listening to the peppermint EP today (I even hate that the title is all lowercase) still doesn’t do much for me.  “Underwhelmed” is an outstanding song, but this early slower version is just a patch on what it would later become.  I do like its lyrics, even though it contains these lines:

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.

Taken out of context, kind of lame; but the song is actually quite clever lyrically and one of their finer achievements.

Patrick Pentland’s “Sugartune” is catchy but not outstanding.  “Pretty Voice”, sung by Jay Ferguson is also one of the better tunes.  This one did not make the album Smeared for whatever reason.  It’s the first really fast upbeat song, and it has a bit of a tasty guitar riff to it.  It’s just recorded so damn muddy, as is all of peppermint.  And that’s my biggest obstacle to liking this EP.  It boils down to the sound.

Even though the band themselves are noisy and enjoy guitar squeals and feedback at this early stage, it’s not captured on tape. Instead there’s this dull roar of 90’s sounding guitars, without a lot of distinction.  I can hear bits and pieces of coolness and even genius, but only buried under the morass of the mix.

I even dislike the 90’s-indie cover art.  Boring.

2.25/5 stars

Part 72: Sloan

One thing I hate:  Drama queens.  Especially now that I am older.  Now that I am older I have zero time for drama queens.  People who bring drama with them just need to stay away.

Unfortunately in my experience, there’s always a drama queen or two at a record store.  Even worse when they’re in a position of power.  Such was my experience in seeing one of my favourite Canadian bands:  Sloan.

It was February 2000, and Sloan were touring behind their latest release, the underrated Between The Bridges album.  I bought it twice, I liked it so much:  On September 12, 1999, I received my pre-order from HMV, which contained two exclusive trading cards (still sealed today).  Then in October, while seeing Phantom of the Opera in Toronto (Paul Stanley, woo!) I picked up the Japanese import which had two bonus cuts:  “Summer’s My Season”, and “At the Edge of the Scene”.

I loved “Summer’s My Season”.  Besides being a great Chris song, it contains my favourite Sloan lyric of all time:

You must remember this

Kiss is still just Kiss

Their style is denial

I’ll meet you when we’re older

Consider it a race

But who would be the one to paint their face?


When Sloan hit Lulu’s Roadhouse in February we all bought tickets.  We grabbed a table on the left side of the massive bar (world’s longest when it was open, actually) and enjoyed an opening set by The Flashing Lights.

Myself and Trev and a couple others sat on the stage side of the table, facing the stage (somewhat obviously).  Some of the girls sat on the opposite side of the table, also facing the stage.  Now, logically, this means we were not facing each other.  Normally when you go to a concert you want to look at the stage.

Sloan came on, and played all of Between the Bridges.  They played a lot of Navy Blues and One Chord, too.  They were friggin’ amazing.  Weirdly, they played absolutely nothing from the EP, nor Smeared, nor Twice Removed.  Not even “Underwhelmed”.  While this surprised me, I was hardly disappointed, especially when Chris came out and played “Summer’s My Season”.  I sang (shouted) along to every friggin’ word even though nobody else in the hall seemed to know the song.  I didn’t care.  It’s a fucking concert!  It’s like Dee Snider says…are you worried about somebody laughing at you at a fucking concert?

Besides, how likely are we ever to be treated to all of Between the Bridges again?  Probably not too likely, especially with “Summer’s My Season” intact.  Not an experience to be taken for granted.

Anyway, I rocked out, hard, played air guitar, air drums, sang, shouted, had an awesome time.  The girls, apparently, did not.

The following Monday at work, one of them spilled the beans.  “Sloan sucked.  That was one of the worst concerts I’ve ever seen.”

OK, whatever, that’s a matter of opinion I guess.  Sloan had just released the double live 4 Nights at the Palais Royale less than a year earlier so I was fully saturated with live versions of the old songs.  I wanted new songs and I got them.

But this was more than a matter of favourite albums.  Apparently, I was told, “You guys were being total snobs, too.”

“What?  Snobs?  What you are talking about?”

“Well, you guys ignored us all night.  You didn’t even talk to us.”

Oh.  My.  God.  It was a fucking concert, not a visit to the fucking mall!  It was 115 dB that night!  Are you fucking kidding me?  And don’t you remember me talking to you afterwards about what a great time I had?  I vehemently denied all accusations but it was absolutely no use.

This led to a week of cold shoulders, snitty comments, and silent treatments.  Always a good time, particularly when it involves people with more seniority than you, too!  Drama.  Never was a big fan of it.  But even though this behaviour soured the whole experiece for me (believe me, even when stuff smoothed out, the concert was never brought up again), I still love that era of Sloan, that album, and all the songs they played that night.  Just that I never even entertained the idea of going to see a concert with that group of people again!