Sometimes the politics of rock music can interfere with a band’s progress. Members jostle for control of a group, take the songwriting reins, hog the media spotlight, and generally fight for what they want instead of championing what is best for the band. The members of the Halifax-based foursome Sloan do not operate in such a self-centred way. For over a decade they have kept egalitarian notions on sharing the spotlight in the band, and as a result are still able to work as a team.
Sunday night’s show at The Whiskey only proved the theory that Sloan likes to keep a level playing field for each member. No one member of the band received gratuitous amounts of attention, and even drummer Andrew Scott was able to get up and sing a few of his own compositions, which included “Golden Eyes” and “Love is All Around,” both off the new album Never Hear the End of It. As usual, Sloan put on a tight set and displayed true cooperation, even in the face of poor audio production and one of the bass drum heads being punctured. In spite of these problems, Sloan delivered an energy-infused show, filled out mostly with tracks off the new album.
Not that anyone could gripe about Sloan performing new material. Never Hear the End of It has received much critical praise, even drawing comparisons to the Beatles’ White Album and Abbey Road. Though it’s fresh to listeners’ ears, the album fits beautifully among Sloan’s most classic albums, such as 1998’s Navy Blues and 1999’s Between the Bridges. At 30 tracks, Never Hear is a long one, and bassist Chris Murphy admits the title is more than a little tongue-in-cheek.
“The title is more of a joke on the fact that [the album] is so long,” explains Murphy. “I think that Jay [Ferguson, the band’s guitarist] thought it was a self-deprecating thing to say–that people won’t listen to all of our record.”
Self-deprecating though the title may be, it’s hard to deny Never Hear is an intimidating listen, clocking in at roughly 76 minutes. Despite this, it hasn’t deterred fans from learning every word to every song, as evidenced by the number of voices singing along at their show.
Never Hear the End of It may be a joke on the length of the album, but it also alludes to the staying power of Sloan, and their ability to pick themselves up even after a lacklustre release like 2003’s Action Pact.
“Action Pact was the record that was different from everything else,” says Murphy. “I wouldn’t describe that ever as the way we work. It was very much a decision to make a cohesive record, and we’ve never done that before.”
Sloan certainly prefers a more eclectic approach to writing music. With four members contributing music to the group, it only makes sense–four heads rarely think one thought, as Confucius may have, but probably didn’t, say. Yet Sloan’s members can still find common ground. No one member retains control over the band, and all their quarrels tend to be minor.
“Maybe we’re one fist fight away from breaking up,” laughs Murphy. “But I think we’re built to last. Everything is fairly slow moving, as any democracy is, and things are easier to get done with a fascist dictator, but we don’t have one.”
While they could be perceived as a democracy just as easily as four fascist dictators without absolute rule, the important point is that Sloan breaks from the rock-and-roll politics cliche. Until there is a military coup within the group, it’s probably safe to say fans will never hear the end of Sloan.