East Coast Pop Bands All the Rage

Sloan's Jay Ferguson Sloan
with the Inbreds
The Rage
Vancouver, B.C.
Friday, October 11, 1996

Review by Pieter Hofmann
Photography by Paul Clarke

With little respect from commercial radio, Halifax's Sloan has become somewhat the Canadian indie darlings on college radio and in the alternative scene. After on again, off again regrouping that would make the tabloids spin in confusion, Sloan has put out their Beatles album, One Chord to Another, that thrives in a sixties panoply of jangle, harmony and studio effects, and touring that album brought them to Vancouver this night.

The pedestrian-looking quartet took to the stage to boisterous applause that is usually reserved for larger, international acts. Digging right into their latest release, Sloan played an intense set of power pop that was far superior to their last show in Vancouver where they were the surprise guests for Stereolab at the now defunct Commodore Ballroom.

Sloan's Chris Murphy Understandably so. The Commodore gig was like a warmup, with the band reunited after a lengthy layover. While the show showed a sense of Sloan's whimsy, the band was rusty and the sloppiness took away from their music. On the other hand, this show at the Rage was tight, clean and full-flavoured. Despite the poor sound in the airport hangar-like venue, Sloan was able to transport the crowd back to the sixties with their elixir of pop, snap and crackle.

Over a set that bubbled like Beatles-pop with a crunch or, conversely, Beach Boys with a sneer, Sloan concentrated on One Chord to Another. While all four members took on vocal chores, guitarists Patrick Pentland and Jay Ferguson handled most of the singing duties along with their churning rhythms and meaty leads. Particularly fine versions of "The Good in Everyone" and the evening's highlight, "Autobiography," had the sold-out venue's crowd swimming in the stop/start melodies. While not technically proficient, drummer Andrew Scott understands the Sloan concept and added the appropriate bottom and fills.

Sloan's Jay Ferguson Surprisingly, the two encores were probably the weakest part of the show. For some reason the songs lacked the lustre of their opening full set. It was if the band was satisfied with the previous tunes and were content to ride that into the night. But other than this drop in energy at the end, Sloan quenched the thirst of the crowd who seemed satisfied to see their band finally back together again and in fine form.

Opening the show, from Kingston were the Inbreds. Usually a duo, Mike O'Neill (guitar/bass) and Dave Ullrich (drums) expanded their live sound by adding guest guitarist Matt Kelly to the mix. There was an obvious segment of the crowd that was there to see the duo rekindle the magic they displayed at the Starfish Room on their last visit to Vancouver; few were disappointed, as the band has certainly been to the school of cool pop hooks and tasty harmonies.

Culling numbers from their their fine debut, Kombinator, and their soon to be released follow-up, the trio jammed their short set full of snazzy tunes buried in a lo-fi aesthetic that couldn't hide the fact that O'Neill and Ullrich know exactly what they are doing and are able to execute it just as well live as in the studio.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on October 31, 1996

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