The Weakerthans
Left and Leaving



by Matt Wolfe EMERITUS
September 8th, 2015 | 17 replies

Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Be kind to yourself.

Hey kid,

Sorry. Sorry a hundred times over. I sold you out. That thing you’ve obsessed over for the last three years, and which you’re about to obsess over for a further three - yeah, I’m gonna sink that. Music is not going to be ‘your life’ when you grow up. It won’t even be part of your life. It’ll be standing on the fringes, like a happy idiot, waiting to be picked up.

I’m sad about it, believe me. Hindsight loves you and misses you. You have a focal point, a life raft, something to wrap yourself up in when life gets too lifelike. Now, you’ve got a guy whose listening habits only extend as far as curated gym playlists on Spotify. When shit hits the fan, who does he turn to? Calvin fucking Harris?

You listen to just a handful of new albums a year now. If you’re lucky, you’ll fall in love with one. In 2014, this will be The Smith Street Band’s Throw Me in the River, but I’m not here to tell you about that. I’m here to tell you about something more important. I’m here to tell you what ages, and what doesn’t age.

What ages? You age. You care about pensions and rent deposits. You have lines in your forehead. You have bad knees. You follow politics and business and finance. Please don’t cry.

What doesn’t age? Some albums. There’s no way to tell which ones do and which ones don’t. Only the passing of time reveals that. But I’ve had long enough to be sure Left and Leaving is one such album. Another is Reconstruction Site. They’re both by The Wearkerthans, and you haven’t heard either yet (yes, yes, you’re incredulous).

Remember Calpol? Yeah, of course you’re too old for that now. But don’t kid yourself, you loved that stuff. Winter cold, the sniffles, red nose and sore throat. Two teaspoons of Calpol, sweet, syrupy, slowly-spreading Calpol, and instantly you felt your afflictions melting away. Well, John Samson’s voice is like that.

You won’t get that the first time you hear him. His voice sounds a little brown. The milky brown of autumn puddles. But stick with him and you’ll see. Autumn will be your favourite season.

John will be the friendly elbow in the ribs you need when you’re kicking an empty coke can down the street. He’ll be the one to tell you: It’s okay to be this way. He’s been where you’ve been, and he gets how rubbish it is. He gets how no one gets it.

And believe me, he knows just what to say. Seriously, the lyrics on his albums are just the best. They are incisive in the best sort of way: they soothe and console and placate as they open you up messily all over the operating table. On the best and worst days, it’s a bloodbath.

“I’ve got this store-bought way of saying I’m okay, and you’ve learnt how to cry in total silence. We’re talented and bright, we’re lonely and uptight. We’ve found some lovely ways to disappoint” and oh my god, I could just write the rest of that song (Watermark), but I know you’re busy looking up obscure Japanese post-rock bands which will have no relevance to you in three months’ time, so I’ll move on.

If John is the Calpol, his band are the fireside on the same wet winter’s day. Clasp your cup of cocoa, prod the logs, stare into the warmth. I haven’t written about music for far too long (ruined your career, sorry again), and so I believe any attempt to actually describe how these songs sound, any genre classification, would be terrible here. Just know that there are guitars and there are drums, and they make rock music which is warm, friendly, unpolished, and a little disorganised; they make music which feels like home.

That’s a shit description, but it doesn’t matter. This band aren’t about the sounds they make. They’re not about the boom-clap boom-clap twang which opens (Manifest), or the slow dance between violin and piano on Slips and Tangles, or the frenzied guitars which skitter from chorus to chorus in Aside. They’re about the how each of these parts add up to a sum which, over time, makes an impression on you. An indelible impression, a cubby in the mind, a crook into which they will snuggle each time you play one of their songs, like a cat finding its usual spot on your lap, stretching out, yawning, warming you inside and out.

This band will illuminate roads which you have walked countless times already, and offer safety down roads which you aren’t even aware exist yet. They will make you tearful and they will make you joyful. They will offer advice from unlikely corners. They will be there when you need them, and, more often than not, they will go at least some way to repairing the suck that befalls you. And I’m afraid, kid, you do not escape the suck in life. No one does.

You are disappointed. Perhaps even angry. I understand that, I’m angry at myself. But try to be grateful. Be grateful you are yet to hear this wonderful band, and be grateful that this wonderful band will survive unscathed from the house-fire that is your impending slow dissolve of music obsession. You will protect them as they will protect you.

I’ll leave you with your bad haircut and a couple of my favourite lyrics:

“I found the safest place to keep all our tenderness, to keep all those bad ideas, keep all our hope. It’s here in the smallest bones, the feet and the inner ear. It’s such an enormous thing to walk and to listen.”

Be kind to yourself. Age with the ageless.

P.S. Treat the cat better. The old boy has a few years left yet.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Minus The Flair
September 8th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

this turned into a review/stream-of-thought on the weakerthans rather than l&l, but i referenced cats twice so i think i covered all the weakerthans bases regardless.

September 8th 2015


this is beautiful, teared up a bit. missed your writing :3

September 8th 2015


woah, it's been a long time since i've seen a review from you.

September 8th 2015


easily better than reconstruction site

September 8th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Album is probably one of my favorites of all time at this point, which is pretty amazing considering I only heard it for the first time this past winter

September 8th 2015


woah, it's been a long time since i've seen a review from you.

you weren't even on this site yet the last time Wolfe wrote a review u brown noser

September 8th 2015


oh. my bff wolfe is back.

September 8th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

best review, best album, so much trvth.

September 8th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

review is sentimentality defined

September 8th 2015


okay wow wasn't expecting that from the review at all, hit me like a fucking truck, way way way close to home and just wow

Ocean of Noise
September 8th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

review is sentimentality defined [2]

Minus The Flair
September 8th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

make sure i'm cited in the oed

Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2017


this review

Staff Reviewer
July 1st 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

damn this fucked me up something good. brutal bump

July 1st 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

The *drags on cigarette* "hey there kid, im gonna teach you a lesson about life" rhetoric is pretty cringey.

Contributing Reviewer
July 31st 2018


Album Rating: 4.5

This review is exactly how I feel about this album

Digging: Ludus - The Seduction

June 23rd 2020


when i think of the most memorable reviews on here this pops in my head

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