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!
GETTING MORE TALE #500: 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.
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?
1992 Peppermint (EP)
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