John K. Samson is such a tease. Ever since he left perpetually disgruntled punk figureheads Propagandhi for considerably less loud musical endeavours, all the way back in 1997, we’ve only seen 4 releases from the soft-spoken hyper-literates we’ve come to know and love as The Weakerthans. City Route 85
comes two years after the release of Reunion Tour
and while it may not be enough to tide fans over until a new Weakerthans release, it's certainly a reminder to those whose attentions began to wander.
Anyone familiar with his bands material may be aware of one of the most important motifs of his work: his home. “I hate Winnipeg!”, he declared in “One Great City!” off the superb Reconstruction Site
, and in the way he never meant a word of it, he effectively summed up the love-hate relationship he shared with the city he grew up in; one that always weighed a little heavier towards appreciation than distaste. City Route 85
is the first of a set of EPs designated specifically to tackle the blueprint of his hometown through the eyes of those who dwell in it, purveyed by his words and his acoustic guitar.
“Heart of the Continent” struggles to cope with the decay of a place once full of life, “Grace General” pours its heart out into the darkened streets it roams, and “Cruise Night” drives just to be free for a brief moment in time and it all goes to remind us why Samson is one of the finest storytellers currently in work: he’s a man who never seems to run out of words. City Route 85
is no lower than his usual standard; his distinctive upper-register voice is especially characterized by the descriptive lyrics he’s made his name with and as his voice dips subtly while he sings, “And our demolitions punctuate / all we mean to say, then leave too late” he explains everything that pains him about seeing his city torn down. If only for ten minutes, it’s good to be reacquainted with an old friend.