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.
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.
We love the Weakerthans.
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.
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
10 Reunion Tour