Sloan’s new double album gives each member a side in the spotlight
TORONTO — The new Sloan record, Commonwealth, distinguishes itself in many ways: it’s a double album; it’s divided into four sides, each a solo showcase for one of the quartet’s creative engines; and the final song is 18 minutes long, an Andrew Scott-penned marathon of superglued song sketches. Despite all that, the new Sloan record sounds like a Sloan record. Of course, that can be said of pretty much everything in their catalogue since their adolescent (if audacious) debut recordings Peppermint and Smeared came out in 1992. Little that they’ve done since 1994’s Twice Removed has sounded much like what was going on in rock music, but it’s all sounded of a piece: sure-footed, polished power pop. “From our second record on, it’s like, what year is that, 1981? Or 1965? Or 2008?” points out Chris Murphy recently at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel, with bandmates Scott, Jay Ferguson and Patrick Pentland. “A lot of the songs — I don’t know about all of them — could be on any of the records. It’s fairly interchangeable…. I could probably take all the songs that we have, which is 200 of them, and I could probably create albums out of (them) with different sounds or something.”
“It’s odd, because... in a weird way, you’re kind of comparing us to AC/ DC or something, where every record sounds the same. And you’re probably right,” says Pentland. “But it’s four AC/ DCs, because we’re all doing our own sound throughout it. The process hasn’t changed much, either. Even as Commonwealth boasts its “four solo records” conceit, Murphy stresses that the only real difference was the track sequencing. The four members worked largely in isolation on writing their songs, but that’s what they’ve always done — any deviations from the formula were fleeting. “When we recorded our album Action Pact,” begins Murphy, taking aim at the band’s 2003 record, one of only two in the band’s discography that failed to chart in Canada, “we had a producer (Tom Rothrock), which we usually don’t have, and he was really into this idea of us recording everything together.
From left, Emily Barker, Erica Wilson and Matthew Irvine in a scene from Giving Voice.