Hi 90 / Lo 68
|Volume 69, Issue 18,
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Arts & Entertainment
Weakerthans renew faith in pop-punk
By Dusti Rhodes
Nowadays, many people who hear the word pop-punk may want to go ahead and kill themselves before the first track on the CD begins. But there was a time when bands that fell into this genre had a way of making original and clever music. With their first album, Fallow, The Weakerthans were getting there, and with their second release, Left and Leaving, they pretty much nailed it. They followed it up with The Watermark EP, which, like Left and Leaving, hinted towards a broader musical horizon.
Reconstruction Site, The Weakerthans' latest release, is a step towards that horizon and a move away from their humble pop-punk beginnings. While keeping with the pop theme, Reconstruction is filled with enough steel and lap guitar to be filed under country as well. It's the good country, too, free of cheesy-twang-filled anthems about getting your man to buy you new boots. It's closer to the old, smoother style that older folks may have played on the radio as they danced with his sweethearts
Front man, lead singer and guitarist John Samson writes sweet and sincere lyrics that match up perfectly with the band's soft, melodic sound. In the past, Samson's lyrics have been more on the dreary and dour side. The album's title track completely describes the theme of every song on the record — the need to move on and dismiss the dismal. "Go tell the nurse to turn the TV back on/and throw away my misery/It never meant that much to me/It never sent a get well card." Throughout Reconstruction is a message of getting past the things that depress you, realizing they will always be there and using them as tools to get you through life.
Samson is an ex-member of the political punk band Propaghandhi, and while his new style is in no way musically similar, his revolutionary political ideals chime in throughout the album. They aren't as obvious all the time, so you have to look for them. In love song "The Reasons," Samson uses political metaphors to describe his thoughts. "How we waste our precious time/marching in the picket lines/that surround those striking hearts/and the time is never now/and we know who we should love/but we're never certain how."
Samson's lyrics, combined with their inventive blend of sound, are what make The Weakerthans' album one of the best pop albums of this year.
The Weakerthans will play Tuesday, Sept. 23 at the venue that loves to change its name, Mary Jane's Fat Cat on Washington.
The verdict: Pop music has a good name, thanks to The Weakerthans.
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