It's not surprising that Sloan, who serve classic-pop sources -- Badfinger, Big Star and the Raspberries -- through a fraternity beer keg, are starting to cause a buzz after nearly 10 years of brotherhood. The ahead-of-its-time combo, who struggled to build a tuneful sound from the grunge era's puzzle pieces, have almost come into their own. Though Sloan don't exactly play classic pop -- it takes a song years to sink into that jewel-case pillow -- they parlay their frat antics into honor-roll rock.
You can always look up to Canada, like a roof leaking brilliant ideas, for more than a trickle of incandescence. (Let's not even get into the superstars, other than to observe that Neil Young and Helen Reddy cancel each other out.) Just scratching the surface -- which positively itches with depth -- you could list a bunch of artists who put Canada on the map as a pop superpower. Sloan, who hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia (also the hometown of Sarah McLachlan), are merely the latest long-running northern export to come down to our senses -- a treat for the eyes (their live shows are well-honed spectacles with room left for spontaneity) and ears (they write songs, not parceled-out excuses for over-emoting). And they're part of a tradition that began in the early '70s, when hitmaker Michel Pagliaro studded his journeyman rock with Big Star-esque forays. Later that decade, Pointed Sticks banged out a peppy buzz that was part Ritalin, part sugar pill. More recently, toothsome purveyors (some defunct) like Pursuit of Happiness, the Odds and Grapes of Wrath have made Canadian pop as free-flowing and respectable as an Ontario oratorio. If it took Barenaked Ladies to kick down the hatch to America, then Sloan just might be the next Canadian group to find solid American ground.