Left and Leaving
With a name like this, you
pretty much get what you pay for. Vocalist/lyricist John K. Samson is an Eeyore-souled
Cannuck, down on his luck but nevertheless content to ride an airport baggage carousel in
a ratty T-shirt so thin you can see his ribs show through. He has managed to find the joy
in the everyday world, oblivious to what he doesn't have. His songs, written mostly in
first person, are a stroll through a life that's tolerable despite the loneliness, written
by someone who's finally getting over a bad breakup but still sees the face of his
ex-lover in every turned head and shadow.
The music is mellow in a new Pacific Northwest sort of way (think
Deathcab for Cutie or Built to Spill), with more than its share of big guitar flourishes
when the material calls for it. But ultimately it's the lyrics that push this recording to
another plain. Samson has the ability to pull his heart -- and yours -- inside out with a
turn of phrase. His slightly nasal, sweater-wearing voice only adds to the homeliness of
his down-to-earth confessional lyrics that are more memory pictures than short stories.
The title track pretty much sums up the sentiment that permeates the
entire CD like a theme. "Memory will rust and erode into lists of all that you gave
me: some matches, a blanket, this pain in my chest, the best parts of Lonely, duct-tape
and soldered wires, new words for old desires, and every birthday card I threw away."
Some might call it sappy. I call it endearing and hopeful and just
plain inspiring in an era when bands either can't seem to make a literate statement or
would rather bombard you with hate-filled misogynistic dribble. The Weakerthans are a
sentimental coup in a war of sonic attrition, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
back to Published in The Omaha Weekly Aug. 3, 2000. Copyright ©
2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.