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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2001



Like a lot of indie guitar bands, the Halifax, Nova Scotia quartet Sloan regard rabid rock fandom with a certain degree of ambivalence. Unlike a lot of indie guitar bands, however, Sloan itself enjoys the attention of a sizable Tiger Beat-like international cult. They show how they deal psychologically with this paradox in a 1994 song called " Penpals," which is made up of syntactically challenged lines from fan letters sent from places like Algeria and Norway ("I have only 13 years and I am crazy of you/Send documents"). The song pokes fun at the gushing testimonials, but it's also weirdly touching.

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The adoration is easy to understand. Sloan's songs are appealing and sophisticated, but the four members are also notably cute. Musically, they live up to The Beatles comparisons you often find in reviews of their records, but the similarities go beyond content to embrace personal style and even appearance; so much so that you can't help but wonder if a propensity for moptops and flawless cheekbones may not have some genetic link to the quality of one's pop skills. Boasting four singer-songwriters who can handle everything from introspection to full-tilt guitar raves to the sweetest melodies this side of Brian Wilson's sandbox, Sloan manages to blend its diverse sensibilities into an organic band sound. They also write the best songs about death ever to come out of Canada, and that includes Neil Young's.

In January, they'll be making their third trip to Japan, and while the clubs they're playing will be packed with lots of squealing young women, the fact that they still play clubs just goes to show that true cults are consistently small and manageable; and that Japanese radio hasn't discovered them yet. If radio stations were playing their wonderful new album, "Pretty Together," nonstop, as they should be, Sloan would be at least as big as Lisa Loeb, who just announced an auditorium tour of Japan. Sloan's way cuter.

Sloan play Jan. 14, 6 p.m., at Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka, (06) 6281-8181; Jan. 15, 7 p.m., at Nagoya Club Quattro, (052) 264 -8211; Jan. 16 and 17, 7 p.m., at Shibuya Club Quattro, Tokyo (Creativeman, [03] 5466-0777). Tickets 5,500 yen in advance.

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