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


#616: None of My Exes Live in Texas (But One Lives in Thunder Bay)

None of My Exes Live in Texas (But One Lives in Thunder Bay)

“You’re going to meet a lot of girls here.”  The Boss, at The Record Store, summer 1994.

Here’s the sad fact of the matter.  Even though it was promised to me like some kind of perk, I didn’t meet any girls at the Record Store.*  That perk was as non-existent as 15 minute breaks.

Here’s another sad fact.  I was absolutely pathetic at talking to girls.  It’s too embarrassing to think about, but if I ever do psychiatric regression to recall all those painful memories, you could write a pretty hilarious comedy movie about my exploits back then.  The working title would be The 20 Year Old Virgin.  It would be something along the lines of Swingers but with a nerd as the lead character.  A heavy metal sci-fi geek.

I just needed the times to catch up to me.  When the internet became popular, the nerds became the kings.  I was always better at talking when I have a chance to write and think about words.  Email was perfect.  Otherwise I used to get flustered and just flat-out say stupid things, usually trying to be funny.  I began online dating in 2000.  Trevor was always willing and able to help me out with advice, but regardless, the first couple years of online dating were epically awful.  I can distinctly remember a Christmas card that Trevor gave me.  It had a timeline illustrating the 13 “Crazy Exes” I’d accumulated so far.

“Hey, that one wasn’t crazy,” I protested as I pointed to one near the middle.

I can’t remember all the names.  The detail I remember most is what city they lived in.

First was Waterloo, then came Hamilton #1.  She was nice, Hamilton #1.  She was originally from Prince Edward Island, and her cousin was Paul MacAusland of the rock band Haywire.  I saw Haywire open for Helix in 1987.  My first date with Hamilton #1 was actually record shopping.  I bought two Devin Townsend Japanese imports.  She got Paul McCartney’s double Tripping the Live Fantastic.  She wasn’t the problem though, Hamilton was.  I got severely lost on my way home and had (what I now know was) a panic attack.

Hamilton #2 came a bit later that year.  She was better with directions, at least, so I didn’t get lost.  She was into music too, but not anything particularly good.  She liked…Britney.  I’ll admit my interest in her was more physical than otherwise, but we did have an incredible first date.  I remember telling Trevor that it was the best first date I’d ever had.  The third one, not so much.  She took me to her AA meeting.  Obviously, that was no place for a date and I should have dropped her off and gone home.

Toronto was a repeat of the situation of Hamilton #1; panic attacks getting lost.  That one was a Sloan fan, but she really turned me off when I saw that none of the discs were in their proper cases.  Sloan At the Palais Royale had something else in it.  The discs were scattered!  But she was also a stage-5 clinger and the night I called her to say it wasn’t working out, she didn’t want to let it go.  I turned my cell phone off because it was constantly ringing and I was going nuts.  I went mini-golfing with some friends from the Record Store to clear my head.  When I turned it back on, a friend prank called me pretending to be the ex!  That eased the mood of the evening.

I really liked Kingston, and fortunately we’re friends.  She was a musician and I even have a copy of her CD that I’ll review one day.  My heart was heavy when she moved to Thunder Bay for school.  I could do long distance but not that long.  That wasn’t the end of the city of Thunder Bay though.  The city taketh away, but the city also returneth:  Thunder Bay Girl herself, subject of Record Store Tales Part 264:  Garbage Removal Machine.  She moved here from T-Bay and was into the metal.  Motley Crue was her favourite.  We’d hang out and watch music videos all night.  I gave her a giant box of my old cassette tapes.  But if Toronto was a stage-5 clinger, Thunder Bay was stage-6.  I had to get out, and she justifiably hated me for it.  But she hated me even more for bailing on her when she had to deliver a ferret to somebody.  Attempting to be friends, I offered to drive her some place to drop off this ferret.  I had to cancel because, as always, the Record Store was insane and I had to work.  Having a life was very difficult at the Record Store and the ferret thing was not my fault.  She didn’t care, and it was all she needed to hate me forever.  She went home to Thunder Bay a little later; that’s why I like to say all my tapes are in a Thunder Bay landfill today.

I’m not innocent through all this of course; I’m sure some of these exes have their own stories.  I’ll never claim to be blameless.  I just like to tell my tales, because at the end of the day, you just gotta laugh.  That’s how you ultimately get over shit.  Laughter, and music.

Fortunately the last online lady I ever met was Brampton.  Her real name is Jennifer, but today she just likes to be called Mrs. LeBrain.

*Confession time!  There was one girl that worked at the Cambridge location that I liked, so I invited her out to dinner and then over for a movie.  I was living with T-Rev at the time, who worked with her in Cambridge.  Well I was so bored on our “date” (IT WAS NOT A DATE, TREVOR! IT WAS A HANG-OUT!) that I went to bed early and she hung out with Trev for the rest of the night!  “Very awkward!” according to Trevor.

#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

#322: Highway to Hell (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)


RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#322:  Highway to Hell

The big peave that I have today in my current work is my daily commute. It’s not far at all (I can do it in 10 minutes if there’s no traffic) but it can be hairy. To understand this, you would have to see the poor planning that went into the roads in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, otherwise known as the tri-cities area.

To get from work (in Cambridge) to home (in Kitchener), there are only a handful of good routes. The trick is getting across the Grand River, and there are only three nearby bridges to access. One of them is Highway 8 into town (two lanes each way but expanding), which is always in a state of construction. Another is the King St. bridge (one lane each way) and another is Fairway Road (a bit too far out of my way). Any accidents can cause jams on any of these routes, but the worst location is what I call the “sweet spot”:

The Tri-Cities "Sweet Spot"

The Tri-cities “Sweet Spot”

The “sweet spot” is on Highway 401, between Hespeler Road and Highway 8 into Kitchener. An accident there at the right time of day (3-4 o’clock) will tie up traffic going into town on any of my routes. Prior to the opening of the Fairway Road bridge, accidents there have delayed me by almost two hours (on a normally 10-15 minute drive). Add in winter weather conditions for part of the year and you’re in for a real good time.

There are accidents on my 10-15 minute drive home nearly every day. Once a month there will be an accident in the dreaded “sweet spot” causing major delays. Last week there were two in a row!  On those days, all I can do is study the traffic map, select a route and hope for the best!

When I first started this commute, all I had was a single disc CD player in my car. Each day I’d pick an album to listen to.  I only had room for one or two CDs in the car at a time.  Length didn’t matter; a Van Halen album would be perfectly fine for my commute on a good day. On a bad day however, you can count on running out of music and having to start over! Fortunately I have since switched to a couple 8 gig flash drives, avoiding traffic tie-up repeats.

On the bright side, a “sweet spot” traffic tie-up informed my review of Sloan’s The Double Cross (which I got to hear twice in one drive), during my drive home.

Other commuting misadventures that I witness on my way home, on a daily basis:

1. Motorcycle idiots passing between two cars. On the highway. Last seen on Friday last week.
2. People passing on the shoulder of the 401.
3. Being cut off in traffic, daily.
4. Idiots on cell phones.
5. Somebody in a Dodge Ram weaving in and out of traffic, trying to make it further along than anyone else, only to get stuck behind a transport truck.

These stories are not so unique. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you witness these same things too. As I progress into the RST Mk II’s, I intend to vent about traffic again in the future. (In fact, I’d like to buy a dash-cam. The video gold I could produce every day would provide endless blog fodder.)

Fortunately, music does soothe the savage beast. Rather, technology does.  Back in Record Store Part 16: Travelling Man, I stated “when you’re stuck in traffic on the 403, in a torrential downpour, listening to Winger, it still sucks pretty much as bad as it would if you weren’t listening to Winger.”  What has changed since then?   Well, I’m not driving that far for one.  GPS and Bluetooth have reduced the stress greatly.  Having 16 gig of albums in the car is also better than five cassette tapes.

What’s your favourite album for being stuck in traffic? Take it from me: Sloan’s Double Cross works really well!

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

Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 4

This is it!  The end!  In alphabetical order, here’s Part 4 of 4:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.   Thanks for joining in!

Savatage – Streets:  A Rock Opera (sheer brilliance, their first and best rock opera)
Savatage – Edge of Thorns (an album to give Queensryche a run for their money)
Savatage – Handful of Rain (recovering from tragedy to create a triumph)
Savatage – The Wake of Magellan (how did this band just keep getting more brilliant?)
Scorpions – Face the Heat (had a couple good heavy rockers on there like “Alien Nation”)
Shaw/Blades – Hallucination (Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, campfire goodness)
Skid Row – Subhuman Race (when you’re pissed off and you know it, bang thy head)

Sloan – 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (one of the best live albums of all time – ignored internationally)
Dee Snider’s SMF’s – Live / Forever Twisted (fuck, I missed Dee in the 90’s!)
Spinal Tap – Break Like the Wind 
Stryper – Can’t Stop the Rock (a compilation with two great new tunes)
Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (see here)
Talas – If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now… (Billy Sheehan and the boys reunited for one night, and has the wisdom to record it)
Tesla – Bust A Nut (in some ways it’s better than their prior records)
Testament – The Ritual (really heavily slagged at the time as a sellout)
Tonic – Sugar (much better than the first record, you know, the one that was a hit)
Devin Townsend / Ocean Machine – Biomech (one of his more accessible albums)
Union – Union (Bruce Kulick + John Corabi = better than what the Crue or Kiss was releasing)
Steve Vai – Sex and Religion (Devin Townsend — lead throat)
Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You (their best album, better than the big hit one)
White Lion – Mane Attraction (it was a little mushy, but brilliant guitars by Vito Bratta)
Whitesnake – Restless Heart (back to his blues rock roots, it wasn’t even released here)

We’re done!  88 albums that meant a lot to me in the 1990’s, but in some cases were criminally ignored.  Check them out.

More New Arrivals!

You may have already watched me open my brand new Sloan – Twice Removed deluxe box set.  In that video, I mentioned a had a few parcels come in.  Here’s two more that I am currently enjoying!  Watch for LeBrain’s Reviews in the coming days and weeks on


THE DARKNESS – Hot Cakes (finally, the elusive version with the 4 bonus tracks!)

Hot Leg and the Stone Gods are no more.  The original lineup is back, without missing a single beat!  It’s 2003 all over again!

MARILLION – Sounds That Can’t Be Made (deluxe CD / DVD combo set)

It’s far too early for me to say anything about the music or the direction this time out.  Early impressions:  Epic like Marbles, catchier than Happiness Is The Road, with a nod and a wink to Radiat10n, but certainly nothing drastically different.  The opening track “Gaza” is 17 minutes!

I love the cover art:  the Arecibo message! I have been obsessed with the Arecibo message since first reading about it in a long-forgotten science fiction story when I was a kid. Wish I could remember the story. Regardless, the message is cool in its deceptive simplicity, and I love that Marillion used it for their cover.  Printed faintly in behind is the binary version of the message.

New Arrival! SLOAN – Twice Removed deluxe edition! (VIDEO BLOG)

Part 101: Record Store Long Weekends

There was never a guarantee that you were going to get a long weekend off.  But when you did, and the temperature was above 12 degrees, you went to the cottage!

Going to the cottage, in the era when I only had a cassette deck in the car, meant picking out the best “road tapes” for the mood.  Depending on the time of day (some music works best on evening drives), my favourites for the cottage were these:

SLOAN: 4 Nights at the Palais Royale

From driveway to driveway, this album is exactly the length of the drive!  Plus it’s one of my top five live albums of all time. Day or night, this was my #1 pick.

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE:  Songs for the Deaf

It’s pretty much designed for a road trip, but it also just captures that vibe of the long highways at night, and serves to keep you awake!  This was a night drive album.

BLUE RODEO:  Tremelo

Also a night album.  Very mellow, for those laid back cottage weekends.

THE BEATLES:  The Beatles (the White Album)

I don’t always listen to the Beatles.  But when I do, I prefer the White Album.

JOHNNY CASH:  At San Quentin

My favourite Cash album of all time.  Of all time!  This was great for the weekends that I drove my grandma up.  I have it in box set form now, so it’s a real nice extended treat today.

Have a great, safe long weekend, folks!

REVIEW: Sloan – The Double Cross (2011)

SLOAN – The Double Cross (2011 CD and iTunes editions)

This is an album that grew on me.  The last number of Sloan albums (everything since Between the Bridges basically) failed to grow on me.  Or, I failed to devote the time necessary to them.  Whomever is at fault…I never got into them.

Then, I got stuck in traffic one night on the way home from work.  There’s a certain “sweet spot” in the tri-cities.  If there’s an accident right where the 401 meets highway 8, it has the potential to tie up traffic in the tri-city area.  So, I took the long way home and listened to Sloan’s The Double Cross all the way through.  Twice.

The album grew from a 3.5/5 to a 5/5 in those two listens.

Two tracks stand out immediately: Chris’ “Follow he Leader” and Patrick’s “Unkind”. Both are incredible songs. Both remind me of what made me go nuts for Sloan a long time ago. Both have really immediate choruses, but both also really capture a vibe. You’ll know what I mean when you hear them.

I also quite like “Shadow Of Love” which sounds new wavy to me, like something Elvis Costello would have written. Little bit of moog on there. I also quite like Patrick’s “I Gotta Know”, a melodic punk-like rocker. Jay’s “Beverly Terrace” is like a disco song, no kidding, and it’s great. I also like Jay’s “The Answer Was You”. The closer “Laying So Low” is quite good as well, a slower one which ends the album on a bittersweet note.

There are two bonus tracks worth grabbing: iTunes had “Then Again”.  It is my third favourite song on the record overall, a Chris song with a dark almost heavy metal vibe (although the song is not a metal song). The iTunes pre-order only track, “Jesus Loves Me”, is a Patrick rocker with a heavy distorted riff like something Weezer might have done.

For best results, play loud. In traffic.

(Don’t like the cover art though. I love a lot of Sloan covers like One Chord and Navy Blues, and you can see they’re going for that two-colour-portrait look here, but the gold and purple are kinda putrid. Not really a cover that jumps out at you at the record store. But then again, who browses record stores anymore? Sigh.)