I realized something recently.
The character of Scott Pilgrim was named after a song by the band Plumtree, a 90s indie rock band from Halifax, the small East coast Canadian city Sloan is also from. When promo for the movie was ramping up, I read something about how Scott Pilgrim creator Brian Lee O’Malley used to walk around listening to Plumtree albums on his Walkman in the 90s, and that image, or the feeling I get when I imagine that image, reminds me what it was like growing up in the 90s in Canada.
The Canadian music channel I grew up with (before MTV Canada existed) was Much Music, probably still the music channel most Canadians watch (though Aux.tv is now another contender). Canada has certain cultural laws which dictate that like 45% or so of what gets broadcast on the airwaves has to be Canadian in origin, so Much Music would play a lot of videos by Canadian bands…they legally had to. Truth is, I never really watched Much Music, I didn’t care about music videos and I still don’t really all that much, but Much Music was something I was always surrounded by. I was always aware of it, I would glimpse it here and there when my parents might turn it on for a bit, my friends, etc. Maybe I even did watch a bit of it because I remember a lot of those music videos by Canadian indie-rock bands. Most of them sucked and were as generic as they could possibly be, but then there were a couple that didn’t suck.
The point is, even though I didn’t listen to much of it as a kid (I wasn’t even really interested in music in general), I grew up with 90s/early 00s Canadian indie rock, it was something that seeped into my head, my ears, even though I was too young to recognize what it was, how it was different from other music, what made it special or unique. Looking back though, I realize how distinct 90s/early 00s Canadian indie rock was. Bands like Treble Charger (when Bill Priddle was still partly in charge) and Sloan typified it for the most part – even Our Lady Peace would probably get lumped in there by most, since they were ‘alternative’ and similar, but way, way more corporate, and would become even more corporate in later years. Their music was a ‘nicer’ version of what American indie rock bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Archers Of Loaf were doing. That’s a bit of an unfair comparison, but for the most part it was melodic rock with noisy guitars…so yeah…it’s not that far off…
I first heard Sloan on either Much Music or YTV, a Canadian kids channel. YTV still exists, right? I’m pretty sure it does. Anyways. I think they might’ve played a music video here or there. Regardless, at some point I remember seeing the music video for Sloan‘s “The Other Man”. That was the first song of theirs I ever heard and I really liked it. It’s still a great song. So great that whenever I heard about Sloan, I instantly thought of that song.
After that song – which I downloaded in Napster or Kazaa and would listen to on my primitive Mp3 player – I forgot about Sloan for a couple years. The feeling of discovering “The Other Man” seeped into the recesses of my memory to sink in the honey of nostalgia until pulled out again as an adult.
A couple years ago, I decided to check out Sloan again and decided I totally did not like them. AllMusicGuide.com recommended One Chord To Another, an album I downloaded and thought was way too clean and poppy, it lacked all edge and was just plain boring. Then Sloan released that song “Who Taught You To Live Like That”, a lazy, bluesy song that sounds a lot like Big Star‘s “Don’t Lie To Me“, except without any of the latter song’s redeeming charm. This further cemented my opinion that Sloan was just one of those crappy bands Canadians liked largely by Canadians for their Canadian-ness (blandness?) rather than their skill.
Recently Sloan released their 11th album in their 20 year history, The Double Cross. When I first heard about it’s release, I could’ve cared less, but solid reviews from the ever-trustworthy Stuart Berman in Eye Weekly and a damn-good 8.1 from Pitchfork forced me to reconsider and give a band I once loved a second chance. And thanks to them, I have come back to Sloan. I don’t love them like I loved “The Other Man”, but the band is full of damn good songwriters, and I’m going into their back catalogue to try to understand them better and maybe even find songs I heard, even loved, as a kid but forgot along the way. And so my return to Sloan isn’t just a return to a very solid Canadian band, but in a way, a return to my childhood, to the days of Canadian indie rock in the glorious, largely-forgotten 90s.