The sold-out show the Nova Scotian quartet Sloan are playing at the 7th St Entry on Friday is billed as “An Evening With Sloan”—that is to say, no opening act, so the band can take as much time as it wants to explore the dozen albums they’ve released over the last three decades.
Sloan are Canada’s most beloved alt-rock band that never broke big in the states—it wouldn’t be precisely right to say they are to Canada as Weezer is to America, but that puts you in the right neighborhood. And they still dutifully head south to play power pop classics like “Penpals” and “C’mon C’mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started)” in American clubs, before heading back to larger venues and festivals up north.
Sloan were one of the most openly Beatles-influenced bands to be snapped up by Geffen Records in the early ‘90s alternative-rock gold rush. But more crucially, they follow in the Fab Four’s footsteps of spotlighting each band member’s voice on nearly every album. Even Sloan’s least prolific songwriter, drummer/guitarist Andrew Scott, has contributed dozens of tracks, from hard rocking singles to Dylanesque ramblers like “Down in the Basement.”
Each member of the Halifax band has his area of expertise: Chris Murphy writes smart aleck anthems like their signature 1992 debut single “Underwhelmed,” Patrick Pentland has an effortless gift for glammy arena rock riffs, and Jay Ferguson sings swooning AM Gold homages with a gentle whisper of a voice. But over the years their styles and sensibilities have blended into a coherent group identity, even when they experimented with writing separately on 2008’s Parallel Play or grouped songs by author on 2014’s Commonwealth. This 28-track playlist cycles through a song from each member of Sloan 7 times—a song primarily written and sung by Murphy, then one from Pentland, then Ferguson, then Scott, then back through the sequence again.
Sloan’s first two albums, 1992’s Smeared and 1994’s Twice Removed, dressed their guitars in a fashionable layer of shoegaze fuzz. But the band’s latent retro leanings were still evident in their sugary melodies, and in songs like “I Hate My Generation,” where Ferguson wistfully declared, “If I was born in the ‘40s, I’d be a teen in the ‘50s.” Sloan’s brief stint as a major label band ended when they left Geffen and released 1996’s One Chord To Another on their own Murderecords label, embracing their old-school influences with dry British Invasion-style production and sweetly harmony-driven songs like “Can’t Face Up” and “A Side Wins.” The musical and professional risk paid off, with their best-selling and most beloved album.
The 2006 double album Never Hear the End of It is the jewel of Sloan’s post-‘90s work, an Abbey Road-style cascading medley of 30 interlocked songs, from the dreamy piano pop of “Right Or Wrong” to the 72-second ode to the Halifax, Nova Scotia punk scene, “HFXNSHC.” It also kicked off Sloan’s second wind as they finally became a full-fledged cult band in America, appearing for the first time on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and climbing higher on the chart with each subsequent album, including their latest effort, 2018’s 12.
Where: 7th St Entry
When: 7 p.m. Fri. Feb. 14
Tickets: Sold out; more info here