Tuesday, August 31, 2004
The Weakerthans: One Great City! (Go! Buy The Rekkid!)
I have a good friend who’s getting married on Saturday. “I” is the kind of woman to whom people are drawn, quietly. Her patience, and warmth; her ability to listen and to see the best in others leave me in awe and have for a long time. In deciding to blog a track for her and “C,” her husband to be, I’m left with the eternal gift-giver’s dilemma: Do you get them something you know they’ll love or do you take a risk, reaching outside the comfortable and (hopefully) opening their eyes to something they’d have loved earlier if only they knew it existed? “I” has always had a soft spot for airy, almost whispered, pop ballads. Back in the day, it was Crash Vegas, Julie Cruz and The Sundays. Today it’s Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards and the Weakerthans (in addition to other stuff, I’m sure. I’ve lost track over the years as our visits have become less frequent). At the end of the day, when the safe bet is this great, why not make it? There seem to be people who haven’t yet heard the good news. They’re under the impression that the Weakerthans are just another pop-punk act, or, worse still, some kind of socialist bore-core out of the Canadian flat lands. In a word: wrong! Wrong, oh so very, very wrong. John K. Samson, the Weakerthan’s songwriter and lead vocalist, is arguably Canada’s greatest living songsmith (yes, I know Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are still breathing). He has an ability to write strident political songs that crack and tremble with heartfelt pathos, and love songs that ring out like man-the-barricades battle cries. The results are sometimes confusing, but in a good way. Take Pamphleteer, from 2000’s Left & Leaving. It has led to a “tastes great-less filling” debate (is it a love song in political agitator’s clothing or a political anthem with a love-story thrown in? At the end of the day, who cares if it’s this good?) Weakerthans records also have an undeniable sense of place. It’s a terroir that almost no other popular music I’ve heard can touch. When Sampson sings “I hate Winnipeg” it's more with tired resignation than smoldering anger. That’s because home towns are like family. You love them for their quirks and flaws as well as their strengths. They excite and disappoint and frustrate and enliven you in ways that are easy to predict, but difficult to change. John Samson understands this and has chosen to express it in song. I and C understand it, and have chosen each other. Nothing, not even perfect pop music, could make me happier. Visit The Weakerthans on the Internet. Buy The Weakerthans Reconstruction Site.