The Weakerthans - "Reconstruction Site"
Epitaph - 4 stars (out of 4)
One of the best bands you've barely heard of, this Canadian quartet writes literate tunes with hummable melodies, an astonishing mix of beauty and brains. Led by guitarist and vocalist John K. Samson, the Weakerthans have managed to top its previous two CDs.
Befitting their left-of-center stance, the band has made its most melodic, straightforward record for a revered punk label. Compared to their two Sub City records that mixed the quiet with the blaringly loud, "Reconstruction" is more even-textured, with several short experimental tunes alongside the pop-punk and several songs with a newly found country twang.
Front and center, though, are Samson's lyrics, some of the best in rock today. He comes up with brilliant subjects to sing about: dying Elks lodges, desperate prayers in hospitals, acidic portraits of ennui in his Winnepeg hometown and the coup de grace - a song told from the point of view of a pet cat. It may sound goofy, but "Plea From a Cat Named Virtue" is their best-ever song, a Weezer-esque romp where the feline is trying to heal a friend that is too depressed to function. The lyric - with its final, subtle declaration of "I know you're strong" - is unquestionably stirring.
Now, that's talent - dare I say genius?
Recommended If You Like: Foo Fighters, Breeders, Neil Young's "Comes a Time," Grandaddy