Prior to becoming the lead singer and songwriter for the Weakerthans, John K. Samson played bass for Propagandhi. This EP, recorded in 1993 and re-released thirteen years later, offers some insight as to how Samson found his voice.
I wonder what a Propagandhi fan, circa 1993, would have thought of these recordings. They certainly don’t sound like any Propagandhi that I’ve ever heard, which admittedly isn’t much. As a Weakerthans fan, though, these songs sound familiar, if unpolished. When I say Samson hadn’t yet “found his voice,” I mean that literally; I tend to think of him as a songwriter first and a singer second, so it’s interesting to notice just how much his singing has improved over the years. On these recordings, his voice sounds sharp and untested. His songwriting has also improved over time, though even here, clever turns of phrase and other Samson trademarks fill the lyrics. There’s no mistaking who wrote these songs. The opener, Maryland Bridge, stands as the strongest track on the album, and if re-recorded, could fit right into a new Weakerthans release.
And in the end, that’s what I really want – a new Weakerthans CD. That’s not quite what Little Pictures is, though it will help tide me over. If you’re not a Weakerthans fan, then there’s not really anything here for you, but if you enjoy the band, this is an interesting EP that’s well worth hearing. Should you buy it? It’s cheap enough that you can’t do much harm, but you might want to give it a listen first – these aren’t studio-quality recordings, and they really only NEED to be owned by completists.