Oakville Place in a mid-90s typified the suburban nightmare. No windows but somehow clinically bright. Cotton Ginny. The It Store. It was a free babysitting service for parents. Drop off the mall rats, clad in Club Monaco and Treetorn, for a few hours to gorge on Manchu Wok and NY Fries. Yet the mall had one redeeming feature: A&A Records.
I clearly remember buying Appetite For Destruction, License to Ill and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back there, among countless cassettes and CDs. Full disclosure: Glass Tiger and Moist were purchases too. While Records on Wheels on Kerr Street was the mecca for independent music—it was the place for tape trading, bootlegs and concert tickets—I lived much closer to the mall.
Oakville had a pretty impressive indie scene 25 years ago. I asked a friend to remind me of some the bands from that era, many of which had hilarious names. Pineconesexface. Neon God. Sister Sloth. 10grade2s. Gorp. Porch Climber. Most weekends someone was putting on show somewhere, it progressed to the point where bigger bands were playing locally. hHead (Brendon Canning of BBS fame), The Inbreds and Treble Charger graced the stages of Masonic Temple or the Waterfront bandshell.
But back to A&A. I remember meeting Rosie from Treble Charger there and thinking that was coolest thing ever. He gave my friend Jenn and I a flyer to a show at a wedding hall. Dusty memories of a dark DIY venue full of cigarette smoke, flannel and Dock Martins floats in my brain. Those were heady days. All this gooey nostalgia has led me to ask: who’s left? Who has survived intact and still produces music? Outside of cash grab reunions from Our Lady Peace and artists of that ilk, the only band that I can think of is Sloan.
They released 12 in early April, and after some quick math, it marks a 27-year career. They never broke up or lost a drummer. No one overdosed. Sloan may just be the most PG Canrock band ever—even the Barenaked Ladies have a drug scandal.
Sloan can still write a great pop song. Their harmonies are as crisp as ever on “Right To Roam” and “Gone For Good.” I found myself listening to 12 a lot more than I expected, perhaps subliminally out of respect to their career. Give it a listen.
Of course for good measure, take a trip down memory lane.