murderecords

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

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