Review Summary: Reunion tours rarely live up to expectations, fortunately Reunion Tour does.
Nobody can ever say that the Weakerthan’s aren’t proud of their home country. Their frontman, John K. Samson, traffics in frigid short stories and character sketches about distinctly Canadian themes: curling, a disgraced hockey player, and supposed big foot sightings. He can’t help but conjure up images of a long, cold, desolate expanse of snow, particularly with his world-weary voice. And the rest of the band gives his writing a perfect platform of down-to-earth pop hooks and melodic riffs. In fact, the only remnant of Samson’s tenure in hardcore punk activists Propaghandi is the brutal honesty that pervades his writing.
, the long awaited follow up to 2003’s Reconstruction Site
doesn’t veer far from the sound that has earned them such a dedicated following, but it is perhaps the best representation of them as a band. Nearly all of the songs found here are instantly accessible, yet retain enough nuance to keep the listener coming back. In fact the strangest moment on the record occurs within its first twelve seconds, on the opener “Civil Twilight”, in which a Minus the Bear-like guitar part pans back and forth. Fortunately, this is immediately replaced by a concise song with a huge chorus. Choruses like this appear often on Reunion Tour
yet even at their most vibrant they don't show any signs of celebration.
What makes the Weakerthan’s such an interesting band is their ability to set Samson’s short stories and poems, which rarely rhyme, to music. More importantly, they do it in such a way that they do not sound like, well, short stories set to music. His melodies highlight the despondence of his characters. There’s the curling player asking “why, why can’t I draw right up to what I want to say?”, the terminally ill patient pleading “make them remember me as more than a queer experiment; more than a diagram in their quarterly.” And if these lyrics sound wordy, or even clunky, Samson effortlessly transforms them into sing-a-longs and memorable melodies. He even writes sequel to the song “A Plea From Virtue the Cat.” In “A Plea” he wrote form the perspective of a cat asking it’s owner why he wouldn’t play with it anymore. Now in the heartbreaking “Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure”, Samson finds himself detailing the cat as a runaway, who only wishes it could return home.
The band itself does more than an admirable job crafting catchy hooks around Samson’s lyrics. Guitarist Stephen Carroll, bassist Greg Smith, and drummer Jason Tait flesh out several songs with pedal steel, banjos, and tape loops. Even the records two token oddities, “Elegy For Gump Worsley” and “Big Foot!”, are written impeccably. The records centerpiece of sorts comes in the form of two brilliant pop songs, “Sun in an Empty Room” and “Night Windows”. These two tracks are the closest Reunion Tour
gets to being hopeful. But, although the record reflects the snowy landscapes that make up its artwork, it doesn’t mean it’s frosty or frigid. Instead, like any good story, it sits you down and holds your attention. And if Samson’s stories are about cold and desolate people, it doesn’t mean that his band can’t be warm and inviting.
Hymn of the Medical Oddity
Tournment of Hearts
Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure