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a first take on _twice removed_

ok, there hasn't been an overwhelming landslide of
mail yet about the new sloan album, so i thought
it was time to provoke some comment.  what follows
is a sort of loose track-by-track response to the
record.  prepare to flame or spam or whatever...

1) "pen pals" 3:08

it's already been noted that the "wee-waw" guitar
part by jay sounds like "even better than the
real thing" by u2, and that the song sounds like
the rankin family's "north country".  has anyone
noticed that the tune in the verses is also pretty 
similar to "underwhelmed"?  i wonder if that's why 
it's not the leadoff single.

the lyrics, though, are really clever.  it's about
a girl from algeria exchanging letters with a
13-year-old boy from norway in really bad english,
and the song lyrics are constructed out of their
letters back and forth.  i wonder if this is based
on people that chris knew or read of someplace.
"i am a norwegian boy / which have some question /
i have only thirteen years / but i am crazy of
you..."  can someone please tell me what "here's
my photo 'deddy-kay say' / one of you would be
canon" means?  it's the only line i can't figure
out and it's really bugging me.  i really like the
part where the girl says "i worship all your
handsome words / to me you seem giant."  sweet and
clever all at once.

2) "i hate my generation" 2:26

jay sings this one.  the overlapping vocals in the
first ten seconds make the song sound like the
beatles' psychadelia.  i think the stripped-down 
sound on this album really plays to jay's strengths 
-- he has a clear, melodic voice and it's cool to 
be able to hear it well.  the chant that sounds 
like they are spelling something out goes "s-e-a-n 
s-a-i-d / p-l-a-y yeah yeah yeah yeah."  i haven't 
figured out all the lyrics yet so i don't know 
exactly what the song is talking about there.  not 
that i would necessarily know that if i *did* know 
all the lyrics.

3) "people of the sky" 3:37

has anyone else noticed how much andrew sounds
like lou barlow on this one?  this is emphasized
by the initial 30 seconds of the track, which
sound like a cheap home recording, and andrew's
lyrics, which have a lot of syllables per note,
which makes them sound more like conversational
prose than typical song lyrics (you know, those
nice iambs which conform easily to 4/4 time), just
like a lot of sebadoh songs.  and then there's the
fact that his voice just plain sounds like lou.  i
never noticed that until i heard this song.

4) "coax me" 3:26

one of two songs on this record that sound a lot
like matthew sweet (the other one is "worried
now").  now would someone please tell me what "if
i drink concentrated o.j. / could i think
consolidated's o.k. / it's not the band i hate,
it's their fans / three cans of water provokes me"
means?  the video looks like it was shot in 15 mm
to give it a grainier look -- it works, it gives
the sixties/seventies-look set an aged quality.  i
notice that the first close shot zooms in on jay's
jagger-like features, is that intentional?

5) "bells on" 3:55

question:  how could the same song have the lines
"well, i'm at this funeral / you're in new york /
i've been dividing my grieving / you're sleeping
with a mutual friend / i dreamed that i kissed
your mouth / and you thought about me over
christmas" as well as the line "la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la" (i kid you not)?

answer:  chris murphy

this song is actually more restrained than "deeper
than beauty," which ends with the line "la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la ah-h-h-h-h la la la la la."

6) "loosens" 5:26

        somehow, it grew
        cut me in two
        to tell you the truth,
        i don't what i'm doing

        so this is it
        from where you sit
        i should be going

        put it back
        into the same place
        where you found it
        when you came in

        put me back
        into the same shape
        how you found me
        before you broke me

        somehow, i knew
        you'd tell me soon
        to tell you the truth,
        i thought you'd tell me sooner

        frozen where i stand
        i take you by the hand
        your grip just loosens

        this hasn't happened for the first time
        and i know it won't be for the last time

the first time that i listened to this song with
headphones on and paid attention to the lyrics,
right when the song got to the "i take your hand
/ your grip just loosens" part, i had this weird
sense of deja vu as i flashed on a bad breakup i
experienced a few years ago.  for some reason,
that lyric captured for me the exact sensation of
touching your significant (ex-)other for the first
time during or after the bomb drops, and feeling
that other person cool to your touch instead of
warm to it.  there isn't an ounce of forced irony
in this song, and that's exactly how it should be.
i've probably mentioned this before, but i really
love patrick's voice.

7) "worried now" 2:40

this song has been changed since the demo version
(available soon or already on our ftp site) was
recorded a year ago.  the arrangement was altered
so that it sounds less upbeat, in keeping with the
downer lyrics.  it still has lots of pop-oomf,
this one should be a single, i think.  i've
probably mentioned this before, but i really
really love patrick's voice.

8) "shame shame" 3:04

it's about time that sloan recorded this one,
they've been playing it since the pleistoscene
epoch (the first epoch of the quartenary period of
the cenozoic era, characterized by the spreading
and recession of continental ice sheets and the
emergence of kearney lake road).  it's produced
*perfectly* and it better be, with this much time
to work on it.  the big-drums-after-bare-vocals
trick works really well here.   it's cool that
they waited 'til this album to record this one,
though, 'cause there's probably only so many times
on a single record that sloan can pull the "take
childhood sayings and actions and cleverly and
ironically resituate them in adult contexts" stunt
and get away with it.

9) "deeper than beauty" 2:40

big drums, spare guitar, a bare basement-practice
kind of quality to this song.  i absolutely love
the lyrics.  "and your glasses, your *hideous*
glasses / when you remove them / i would rather
skip my classes and be caught / then to entertain
the thought / that someday you'll just put them on
again / but i can make the best of it until then."
what is so funny about this song is that it's
called "deeper than beauty" and has a couple of
lines to that point ("still i know you go deeper
than your beauty / you go well above and beyond"),
but the whole thing is about this total schoolboy
physical-attraction crush.  this is a song that
could have been produced in that amped-up
feedbacked-out _smeared_ style but instead has a
very stonesesque guitar riff and totally
stripped-down production.  it really works.

10) "snowsuit sound" 3:47

quite simply, jay's best vocal work ever.  he does
the stuttering-vocals thing and absolutely pulls
it off.  it again has a vague beastles-ish quality
to it, kind of like some world party songs.  and
any song about wearing braces is cool with me. :-)
when i listen to this one, and to "i hate my
generation" i find that both songs seem like songs
that chris murphy might write, whereas patrick's
and andrew's songs sound more distinct.  does
anyone know if all the singers on this record
wrote all their own songs, or if chris and jay
tend to collaborate more, or something?

11) "before i do" 7:04

pretentious, arty, long, repetitive.  i love it.  i
loved it the first time i heard it, actually,
which was last christmas.  "and my alarm is set
for noon / and it's going to go off / before i do."
when i first heard it i assumed it would be at the
end of their new album, as kind of a "big finale"
thing.  the version they included, though, cuts
off suddenly and immediately goes into another
song, "i can feel it."  i guess the idea was to
try and avoid doing the most obvious thing.  good
idea.  i can't really tell who does the talking on
this version.  when they did it live, opening at
jale's _dreamcake_ party, chris did the talking
part.  andrew's two songs on _twice removed_ add a
very necessary non-classic-rock-derivative element
to this record, balancing it out a little and
making it lean just slightly left of centre.

12) "i can feel it" 3:28

jenny from jale does backing vox on this one, and
patrick sings lead.  there's this bit in the
lyrics that going to start a whole new rhyming
craze: "no strings attached / no copy to match /
no drift to catch / no plans to hatch / no itch to
scratch..."  it's the "write your own 'i can feel
it' lyric game"!!  it's easy, see:  "no jeans to
patch / no purse to snatch..."  you get the idea...
i think that that part is supposed to be funny,
but i have this feeling that people are going to
take it as unintentionally funny.  oh well.  i
like the handclaps, it's a pretty addictive song.
i've probably mentioned this before, but i really
really really like patrick's voice.

     _James R. Covey <jrcovey\!/ac.dal.ca>_    sloan net is a discussion of the
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