Friday, August 11, 2006

On Twice Removed

Throughout our history, there have been two major influences that have helped to define Canadian art: The United States and Britain. In 1994, the gloomy grunge era had just come to an end south of the border with Kurt Cobain’s suicide, while across the pond, the Brits were popping to Oasis, Blur and Supergrass. But with Bryan Adams, Corey Hart and Tom Cochrane representing us on the world stage, sizzleteens across Canada were beginning to hate their generation. Then Sloan released Twice Removed.

In 1996, Chart Magazine polled three hundred Canadian musicians, critics and industry people to name The Greatest Canadian Album of All Time. Twice Removed was at the top of the list, beating out canonized Canadian rockers such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and The Band. It’s hard to argue with that choice. The Halifax power-pop quartet’s sophomore release sounds as melodic, rocking, varied, clever, and fresh today as it did twelve years ago.

Music geeks could easily spend hours playing spot the influence with this album but that would be missing the point. Sloan has never been preoccupied with such silly things as innovation, experimentation, influence, or breaking new musical ground. They’re much too Canadian for showy things like that.

Twice Removed represents Sloan’s transition from the droning, noisy guitar rock of Smeared to the polished, catchy, note-perfect AM rock revival of One Chord to Another. With each of the four members contributing to the songwriting (a democratic tradition that Sloan fans regard as highly as health care), all the elements of classic Sloan sound are all here: big fat Keith Moon-esque drum fills and windmill power chords, ooh la la la backing vocals, and lyrics too clever for their own good. That said, Twice Removed is the story of a band discovering its sound rather than perfecting it. So anyone who likes a little narrative with their rock and roll has themselves a wonderful historical document.

Also: The songs are great. “Coax Me”, “People Of The Sky”, “Penpals”, “Snowsuit Sound”…in my mind these are Canadian pop-art works that belong in the same category as The Guess Who’s “American Woman”, Douglas Copeland’s Generation X, and Paul Henderson’s game winning goal against the Soviets in ’72. You’ve got a thing for them too. I can feel it, I can feel it.

(Originally written for, but never published.)


Blogger Exubai Negedikos said...

I saw Chris Murphy at the Virgin Festival. I didn't say anything to him, though.

9:17 PM  

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