One of my all-time favorite records is The Weakerthans third album, ‘Reconstruction Site.’ From a literary standpoint, ‘Reconstruction Site’ demonstrated a new type of music to me. For lack of a better description, I’ve referred to the album (and The Weakerthans’ music) as “Book you can’t put down rock.” The Weakerthans principal song writer, a Winnipeggian by the name of John K. Samson, has written some of the best novellas I’ve ever listened to, simple as that.
‘Reconstruction Site’ was sequenced to reflect the cyclical seasons of grief, regret and loss. Framed between three tracks that symbolize the beginning, the middle and the end, ‘Reconstruction Site’ captured Samson giving voice to terminal hospital patients, a cat (written from a cat’s POV unto their depressed owner) and imaginary dinner dates between the French philosopher Michel Foucault and Ernest Shackelton, an Irish explorer. The music, a bluegrassy mix of folk rock and punk, carried Samson’s sometimes difficultly depressing voice through 40 minutes of literary references and hopeless depression.
‘Reconstruction Site’ caught me at a good time. Well, it was a bad time for me, so having a record to carry me through the bad time was a good thing. You get me, right? I needed ‘Reconstruction Site’ when it arrived at my door, and for six long months, I praised its existence. And for six long months, every single time life threw something bewildering my way, I ran right for ‘Reconstruction Site.’ At the end of my infatuation with ‘Reconstruction Site,’ on a plane ride from Vancouver to Newark, I can remember finally grasping my ultimate relation to the lyrical content. And when the plane landed and the catharsis ended, I got on with life and never looked back.
Four years later, I’m not the same person. Nor are The Weakerthans. I kinda forgot that I liked The Weakerthans since ‘Reconstruction Site.’ Not for the lack of trying, they were just fairly inactive as far as new material was concerned. That’s done now, I still love The Weakerthans, and I still love Samson’s story telling ability. He’s still addressing his unfortunately trademark emotions; that of desperation, yearning and loneliness, but he’s learned to cope. No, I take that back. If he had learned to cope, I don’t think the music would be made. I think he’s simply decided to continue his successive battles with the dark sides of depression, utilizing tender and candid anecdotes concerning cats, dead NHL goalies and people with unexplainable medical ailments as a means for the fight.
There’s music there too, not just literary interpretations. The Weakerthans have grown. Weirdly, broadly and experimentally. This isn’t the pop-punk Weakerthans anymore. This is a depressively hopeful take on folk punk, punctuated by atmospheric pop and dark jaunts along the borderline of a Samson-ized a capella.
My one abysmally small gripe with ‘Reunion Tour’ is that the second half of the album all sounds like last songs. You remember those? When the last song on an album was the last song for a reason? Well, the second half of ‘Reunion Tour’ kinda sounds like the last song. It’s heavy is all I can say. The kind of song that when you see it live, the band falls off one by one, til all that’s left is the drummer on stage, trying to clean up the mess of emotions they started just an hour ago.
Slight gripe yeah, but one that I’ll battle til my next cathartic Weakerthans episode becomes past tense. I never expected The Weakerthans to take the easy way out anyway.
The Weakerthans MySpace Page: www.myspace.com/theweakerthans
Sidenote: If you’re a cat lover, I dare you to listen to ‘Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure’ without shedding a tear. It’s gut wrenching….