The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site

Here’s another fun fact: a great percentage of people, once in the company of any in-group they can desperately feel a part of, will reveal that they believe in stupid, stupid conspiracy theories. Here are just a few I heard just today: Canada is a communist country, worse than China, and they have cameras in your house watching you. The government also keeps track of where you are at all times through your cell phone. “Someone” is running every political party and creating an illusion of choice. Insurance companies make people sick on purpose. Here are a few I hear at work all the time: the world really is ending soon. There’s a cabal of “evil” people ruining the lives of “good” people. And astrology; so much astrology. These are not uneducated people or teenagers saying these things either! Meanwhile you can’t buy beer at the Beer Store in Toronto after fucking seven O’clock on a Sunday. Teeriffic.

Here’s another Weakandthins album! It follows the other two, only now (if you remember my past little paragraph) they’re smarmy English graduate students, being all pretentious and way more alt-country. Seriously, there’s about two songs on here that don’t have that Cuff the Duke feel. Do you know Cuff? I do, they’re a much less known band than the ‘Thans and I shouldn’t be comparing them as such but there I went. Not to worry, though, I know a few English graduate students, and most of them are pretty sharp – that’s how they got into grad school! But yes, pretentious! Three of the songs have their names in parentheses, and they share the same melody, and one of them’s all backwardsy! Yeah, backwards cymbals make everything deep, man. There’s a song that name drops Foucault and Derrida (and some others) and features (terrible) French (because they don’t actually say “comme ci comma ca” EVER). Even the very album title seems like a play on deconstruction!

Of course, the pretension is pretty veneereal. These are your comfy Weak’s, like a comfy old bag of socks. True to form, there’s some classy, literate, 4/4-timin’ iambic pentameter singin’, simplistic power chord playin’ boys you’ve always known. Of course, there are great lyrics in about half the songs here. Why, one of them’s a chide from an exasperated cat (!) that both really gets into animal character and features a memorable line advising the song’s target to invite friends over and “talk about the weather or / How the weather used to be.” If you’ve known people it’s downright profound is what it is. It helps that they have some riffing going on during the verses (at least the second one) to spiff up they’re omnipresent chugga-chugga moderate rock sound. They totally do this during “Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call” too! And love man, the resident kinda-emo song, “The Reasons” (later covered so profoundly by Hoobastank) is downright fucking adorable! The chorus goes “I know / You might roll your eyes at this / But I’m so / Glad that you exist”! Awww! And “Time’s Arrow,” why, that song reminds me of thinking about swinging about (parse it) a grassy country lawn on a hot summer’s day, even though that never technically happened!

These guys really are my favourite kinda emo kinda country childhood reminiscing kinda indie rock group around, and it sure helps that they’re fairly obviously Canadian. But ah, like that bag of socks, by the time you get to the bottom they’re all mildewy and yuck. 5 of last 6 songs are like a guy you see and recognizes you at a party, and he’s like “Myles! Hey Myles!” and you squint in attempted recognition, and you maybe, maybe remember him a little? So you haltingly say hello, and he notices your condition but tries to plow through it with “we went to high school together!” And you try your darnedest, but it just doesn’t help; you still don’t really remember him. I mean, one’s really country, right? One sounds a little like Pearl Jam filler, or something? One’s kinda like the first song, I think?

The resident song about how much they hate Winnipeg (I LOVE how there’s one of these per album) is an acoustic twanger this time. Unfortunately, a version I have on my computer that’s not acoustic is WAY better and uses a far better vocal take, so that’s sad, but this may be the best city-hate song I’ve ever heard (it tops Robbie Fulks’ “Fuck This Town”). The song’s called “One Great City!” but the entirety of the chorus goes “I hate Winnipeg.” I’d quote the whole lyrics to do it justice, but I’m lazy, so let me just say that it’s the most perfect picture of tired commuters, seemingly endless winter, and urban decay. “Late afternoon, another day is nearly done / A darker grey is breaking through a lighter one” and on it goes, including about five references you have to be Canadian (or capable of using Wikipedia) to understand. It’s rare (for me) to find songs where the song’s message overcomes the memories I have associated with it (namely, staring out a townhouse window in Guelph in February and later singing with a long lost roommate). Of course, all my gushing doesn’t change that what I thought was the song for about eight years isn’t on the album, and half the songs that are on the album are like the 2004 Blue Jays’ season – all I can remember about them is that there’s nothing much to remember about them. But oh, those other seven (ish) songs!



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