I believe this is the album that put Sloan on the map, though I could be wrong about that. I believe I had this because I was enamored with their song on the DGC Rarities, Vol. 1 compilation. I remember liking this a lot more, too. I still like it, but I think the reason I remember liking it a bunch is because it’s not metal and it’s not grunge but it does have some really good hooks and so may have been one of the first examples of me moving out of heavier stuff into accepting stuff that was just flat out catchy.
Anyhoo, this is still awfully good, though at this point I might prefer its predecessor, Smeared. The songs are more fleshed out as songs here, the lyrics aren’t nearly as mopey sad sack as they were on the first album, and there are still plenty of catchy riffs…I just…I don’t know…something was just a little more muscular about the instrumentation on their debut? The full hearts on that album were more powerful than the full hearts here? I’m just remembering that album more positively than it really was?
Who knows. I do know that one thing in particular I’m experiencing worse this time around is “Pen Pals,” which is a wonderfully hooky, perfectly crafted pop song. But, whereas the charming, broken English lyrics was a part of what I’ve always loved about it, now I can only hear it as the band mocking the lyrics. I think I might have known at the time that the lyrics were pulled from fan letters to Kurt Cobain, but I always just assumed the band thought they were as lovely as I do. Now I can only see the band sitting around reading fan mail to a dead man and laughing at foreign teenagers.
On the other hand, I don’t really have a problem giving this four clowns. Well, maybe a little problem, but still, Smeared came in a half-clown lower than that, so maybe this album is better. I think they do a great job of moving from uptempo jangles like “Pen Pal” and “Worried Now” and downtempo plaintive tracks like “Loosens.”
Take the best half of songs from that album and from this and you’ve got easily a 4.5-clown album. So still an auspicious start for a band that would go on to release ten full albums with an eleventh scheduled out next month. Not band for four guys straight outta Halifax, eh?
Mix: “Snowsuit Sound”
– “Pen Pals,” “Coax Me,” “Loosens,” “Worried Now,” “Shame Shame,” “Deeper Than Beauty,” “I Can Feel It”
– “I Hate My Generation,” “Bells On”
– “People Of The Sky,” “Before I Do”
Filed Between: Sleater-Kinney (Call The Doctor) and A Small Circle Of Friends (a Germs tribute)
Song Notes: After the jump
- Pen Pals – This is a wonderful song, and the broken English is charming. However, I can’t help but hear the lyrics now as making fun of the authors, especially given that they were fan letters to Kurt Cobain.
- I Hate My Generation – Wow, very Josh Steinbauer vocals. In the verses.
- People Of The Sky – Starts off ridiculously lo fi. This kind of spoken word thing is a bit derivative of …? Like “Bells On” and “Before I Do,” this has its moments, but it’s more like “Before I Do” in that they can’t quite save it from annoying me. I hear some Josh in the vocals here, too.
- Coax Me – Love the chorus, great use of maracas/shakers. But the verses are a bit meh.
- Bells On – A slow, sad song about longing for a girl who’s “sleeping with a mutual friend” and doesn’t even know who he is. Does a good job in parts of being successful in an unconventional format, but at other points the stream of musical consciousness thing doesn’t hold together very enjoyably.
- Loosens –
- Worried Now –
- Shame Shame –
- Deeper Than Beauty – starts with a nice jangly riff
- Snowsuit Sound –
- Before I Do – reminiscent of …? god what does this sound just like at the start? Not horrible for the middle stretch but becomes unbearable with that talking in the background for the last however long (and god what song does that sound just like?)
- I Can Feel It – kinda sounds like “Worried Now”. Kinda boring but not bad. Actually really grew on me.