The Weakerthans -- Reconstruction Site (Epitaph)
The Weakerthans have always been a mystery to me. The reason being is that I can never fully understand why the punk scene has accepted this band into its company. I realize there is the fact that frontman John K. Samson used to be a member of the politically punk outfit Propagandhi. So I understand how a few of their fans crossed over with Samson's new project. However, if you have ever gone to see The Weakerthans perform you would notice that quite a few punks are really interested in what this band has to offer. It's great; but confusing. So it's even more perplexing that the band has signed to Epitaph. Once you listen to Reconstruction Site, you may find yourself double checking the back just to remind yourself that they are actually signed to the label. I do love how The Weakerthans dodge the confines of being "genre-specific".
This latest release showcases some new elements to The Weakerthans; with sounds that were few and far between on previous albums. Harmonies are strewn throughout this album and the additions of trumpets to a few of the tracks remind me of something off of a Beulah album; which puts a smile on my face. This band has to be one of Canada's treasures just because of the musical genius that comes along with every album. There is something about Samson's lyrics that are mesmerizing. His signature wordsmith style will have you dissecting each song line by line. In fact, the words are written much like poems rather than like stories that appear in conventional songwriting. I can never completely walk away knowing what any song is particularly about because every line has its own particular meaning. Song titles are also no indication of what the song is going to be about because they are often stories all to themselves (ie. "Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call" or "Our Retired Explorer [Dines With Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961]). I think that is what I love so much about this band is that their music and lyrics are not boring, nor cut and dry; but rather complex and intricate.
With Reconstruction Site comes the return of producer Ian Blurton (Blurtonia, Change Of Heart) who has worked with The Weakerthans on their last critically acclaimed album Left & Leaving. This album also features a guest appearance by one of Canada's other treasures, Sarah Harmer on the song "Benediction". Harmer and Samson's duet is a highlight on the album because their voices sound absolutely perfect together. The tracks "A New Name for Everything" and "One Great City!" have a country twang that does not sound out of place for the album, perhaps the label, but not the album. These songs remind me of something off of a Wilco release, with the exception of the differences between Samson and Jeff Tweedy's vocal stylings. The music is what is reminiscent and links to the two as opposed to the vocals.
This album's release is much anticipated due to the success of Left & Leaving. I think it is fair to say that this album was worth the wait and hopefully with the help of Epitaph this album and band will get to reach more people. Reconstruction Site may be one of the best releases to come out of Canada this year; if not the best.