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Smashville Smashed

My son (9) and I have been following the NHL season this year, watching the highlights from as many games as we can. In the most recent round of playoffs, he was really hoping that Winnipeg would defeat Nashville and move on to play Las Vegas. In truth, so was I, because I felt Winnipeg was playing better hockey, as well as to keep a Canadian-based team in the playoffs.

This is a music site, so I won’t belabour our love of the game. As you know, I play all sorts of music in the car for the kids, wherever we go it’s a different tune and they get to hear all sorts of things. Well, a few nights ago Winnipeg did, indeed, defeat Nashville (in the 7th and final game of the series!) to move on to play against Las Vegas in the next round (which is already underway). My boy and I were pretty happy about that.

Sitting there, after watching the highlights of the win, my boy says “Hey Dad, I’ll bet Nashville is singing ‘I… Hate… Winnipeg!'” And then it clicked for me – I’d played the Weakerthans for the kids at some point, and he remembered the big payoff line from their excellent tune, One Great City.

Sometimes, you just know when you’re parenting correctly.

Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans – The Falcon Lake Incident

falcon lake incident

I sure do love me some Weakerthans. And for those who wonder, Jim Bryson is THIS GUY.

It’s weird I didn’t own this until my latest trip to Taranna with Mike. Seems like the kind of thing I’d have bought on new release day… But anyway, here it is now and it is glorious.

This is, mostly, late night highway cruise music, somewhere out across the prairie and not a light to mark civilization in sight. It’s gonna be a long drive (one song even says “everywhere’s a long drive from here”) but this album will get us there. For anyone who’s travelled in Canada, you’ll know we’ve got a lot of space in this big ol’ loveable lug of a country of ours, and it’s all beautiful.

Just like this record. Completely recommended.


PS: The Falcon Lake Incident? If you like UFOs, READ ABOUT IT HERE!
PPS: Super-cool that they recorded this album in a cottage at Falcon Lake!
PPSS: Gord Sinclair (Tragically Hip) and Jill Barber make appearances on this record too!

Weakerthans – We’re The Weakerthans, We’re From Winnipeg

Here’s my final score from Sonic Boom during our trip to Toronto in June. I had first seen a copy of this DVD at BMV on Bloor for $14.99, and texted James about it to see if he needed it. He declined, saying he could get it $10 new online. Cool. I left that copy as well, having a whole pile of other stuff myself. 

Next day, at Sonic Boom, I found the same DVD for $5.99. Figuring James had already ordered his own copy (we’re big Weakerthans fans, you see), I snagged it for myself. And it’s great!

Weakerthans – We’re The Weakerthans, We’re From Winnipeg

Filmed as a documentary of their truly cross-Canada Rolling Tundra Tour, this DVD is a really cool look into the band’s lives on the road, great interviews, beautiful scenery (this really is a gorgeous country!), and full song selections from each town they played. Folks, Caelum Vatnsdal’s film is so awesome.

These are excellent musicians playing stellar rock songs, intelligent and literate guys who make it all look easy, and just a good bunch of solid Canadian lads trekking East to West (and North) in this great land of ours. I just love this band, and this DVD is full of cool insights and just general tour nitty gritty (shaving the beard! doing laundry! poutine! canoeing! marshmallow/bacon!).

We had the good fortune, years ago, to see the Weakerthans in concert. That was in Saskatoon, at Louis’ Pub on the U of S campus. Pretty sure that was for the Reconstruction Site album/tour. That was a great show too! Man, if I was in a band, I’d wanna make music just like this with guys just like this!

Oh hell, just buy this if you want a look into a superb band rolling through our great land. Do it!

opening montage (all St. John, NF?) – Reunion Tour
Halifax, NS – Tournament Of Hearts
Charlottetown, P.E.I. – Time’s Arrow
Sackville, NB – Relative Surplus Value
Fredericton, NB – Reunion Tour (briefly, then during interviews)
Quebec City, QC – Our Retired Explorer
Montreal, QC – Sun In An Empty Room
Peterborough, ON – Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call
Ottawa, ON – Aside
Kingston, ON (listed but no stage song)
Toronto, ON – One Great City
Winnipeg, MB – Plea From A Cat Named Virtute (with Rusty on trumpet!)
Winnipeg, MB – Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure
Calgary, AB – Confessions Of A Futon Revolutionist
Banff, AB – The Reasons
Kelowna, BC – Civil Twilight
Nanaimo, BC – Elegy For Elsabet
Victoria, BC – Reconstruction Site (with canoeing footage!)
Vancouver, BC – Pamphleteer
Whitehorse, YT – My Favourite Chords (briefly, then during interviews)
Whitehorse, YT – Left And Leaving (briefly during interviews, then in full/during credits)









* I looked all over online and could not find anywhere that listed the towns/songs, as I have done (above). I dunno, I just got tired of looking so I sat through the whole DVD and kept a list of what I heard. Likely, I just missed it online (probably), or maybe I’ve done the internet a favour (you’re welcome!). If I’ve made any errors, I’ll gladly correct whatever it is, just let me know in the comments.

** WTF no stops in Saskatchewan? Or maybe just no recordings made there?

*** On the cover, the pull-quote from Sarah Liss of NOW Magazine says “There’s something about the Winnipeg folk-punk foursome’s tunes that packs a gut-wrenching wallop.” I do not disagree, Sarah, except that that picture on the cover clearly shows all five members of the band on stage!

Weakerthans – Live At The Burton Cummings Theatre

We saw the Weakerthans in concert once, a few years ago, in Saskatoon. It was a great show. True, there’s little difference between the records and the live sound, so you get what you expect. This CD perpetuates the experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Weakerthans songs have always had a strong taste of smalltown Canadian life and realism. They could be from anywhere in this country, looking out weathered windows at an unforgiving landscape and dreaming of bigger things, different places and better weather. Their songs also beautifully embrace the small, neglected things in life, and Samson’s plaintive vocals feed all of this easily, particularly on the ballad-like tracks. The band’s music is the bedrock on which their particular brand of ennui is built. This collective of musicians complement each other perfectly.

Arguably, this record adds nothing to the collection. The songs are mostly note by note replications of the album tracks, and the live concert sound is largely removed. There’s a flubbed chord early in Plea From A Cat Named Virtute, and on a couple of tracks Samson starts out playing one speed and then clearly slows down as the song progresses. But none of these are damning points, it’s just the way it is. They were due for a live album at some point in the catalogue and, so, here it is.

Don’t get me wrong. A live record from one of the most thoughtful, consistently excellent rock bands in the country right now makes me very happy. I just wish there had been a bit more effort placed into making it stand out from their pile of great studio albums.

Weakerthans – Reunion Tour

We love the Weakerthans.

Love ‘em!

So imagine our glee when news of a new record began to surface. Especially considering that it’s been four years since Reconstruction Site. Of course, we wish they’d make a new record every five minutes (and they’d all be awesome too!), but they will likely always just do their own thing and we’ll love them for it anyway. Suffice it to say, we were ecstatic indeed.

This record is a perfect addition to their growing catalogue. You might think, if you only gave it a cursory listen, that it sounds just like their other records. But that’s a good, good thing. Really! The world they’ve created for this gem of a record has the slow, introspective and thoughtful tracks, just as there are the fast, intricate rockers that’ll get fists pumping in a live setting. It’s all here, and it’s all completely beautiful. Wahoooo!!

Even better, we are (as always) treated to songs that are intelligently constructed, and lyrics that are poetry set to music. I hate to say the word typical because you’ll think it’s meant to be somehow derogatory. What I mean with that word is that these players make awesome typical, and so in that sense this is a typical Weakerthans effort.

There’s more Canadiana here than on most records out there right now (short of the Hip, I suppose) and it’s wonderful. It sounds like… home. Hockey, curling, the GST, oddities and life in general in this great big lug that we call this nation of ours. We even get a continuation in the story of the cat named Virtute. It’s so sad (but beautiful)! Civil Twilight gets stuck in my head a lot, these days, and my lovely wife likes Sun In An Empty Room. But it’s so hard to pick just one. Each song is its own awesomeness.

If you’re a fan, you’ll have bought this already and you’ll know just what I’m on about. If you’re new to the storyline, welcome. This is as good as any place to start. Now go buy all the rest of their stuff and fall even more completely in love.

Track Listing:
01 Civil Twilight
02 Hymn Of The Medical Oddity
03 Relative Surplus Value
04 Tournament Of Hearts
05 Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure
06 Elegy For Gump Worsley
07 Sun In An Empty Room
08 Night Windows
09 Bigfoot!
10 Reunion Tour
11 Utilities

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