Saturday, May 26, 2007

True Patriot Love

Sloan, Excerpt from "Rest of My Life" on the album Action Pact, 2003

Since 1993, the Canadian power-pop band Sloan has released nine full-length albums containing a total of 124 tracks. Played back to back, they would last just six hours, thirty-two minutes, and twelve seconds, or not quite half as long as Wagner's Ring cycle (but with way more hooks). In other words, they specialize in lean, clean three-minute songs.

Out of all those songs, this one gets closest to what I like about this band. The lyrics are oblique, and the video, though simple in concept, balances precisely between optimism and nostalgia: these kids are singing about the band they will eventually grow up to be, although they are really just idealized memories constructed by the adult band, who already embody nostalgia by playing a style of music that was out of date even when they formed. Whew!
And if that weren't enough, this line ("I know that I'll be living it in Canada") opens up a whole new can of worms. Here are some ways I've tried hearing it:
  1. As a straight-up statement of patriotism. I think the band really loves Canada, as do the fans who drunkenly scream along with this line at Sloan shows.
  2. As a wry take on overblown, inappropriate patriotism. This line seems to burst in from outside the song, interrupting the structure of the verse (compare this line to the opening lines of the song) and introducing geographic specificity that contrasts with the delicately vague temporal viewpoint, outlined above. And musically, it's completely over the top! The multitracked vocals and big plagal cadence sound like the national anthem at a curling tournament.
  3. As a fond memory of the uncomplicated patriotism of childhood. This may reflect my American point of view, since Canadian patriotism, even among my expat friends, seems to have been uncomplicated right up until Stephen Harper's election last year.


lauren said...

subtitle to this entry: LUIS COME BACK!!!!!

Humingway said...

Yeah, seriously. North America is shriveling up and dying without you.