Here in the vaulted chambers of The Inlander, we tend to get a lot of our tunage just the way we like it: free. But every now and then I find myself giving over some of my hard-earned cash for new tunes, and when that happens, I try to make sure I'm buying my music from one of the little guys. It's not just that I can't handle big stacks of Celine Dion's ghoulish maw at my friendly neighborhood Barnes & amp; Noble, nor is it entirely about my palpable dread of anything you'd hear on a Clear Channel radio station. It's just that when I go to, say, Boo Radley's, or when I make it over to the Long Ear in Coeur d'Alene, I always find some wonderful, undiscovered little gem that becomes my new favorite CD for the next six months.
Such is the case with the Weakerthans, which was recommended to me on a visit to Boo Radley's, and has seldom left my CD player since. This four-piece power pop outfit from greater Winnipeg, Manitoba, is self-consciously smart in the tradition of the Decemberists and Fountains of Wayne; they seduce the listener with jangly electric guitar and energetic pop confections, while employing the introspective confessions of emo and a poet's ardor for the right word. Much of their sound and effect are due to frontman John K. Samson's plaintive, youthful voice and literary leanings (he previously ran his own publishing company).
It's not all disillusionment here, and plenty of Reconstruction Site (Epitaph) is great fun. In fact, the best track (in my opinion) is "Plea from a Cat Named Virtute," in which a depressed guy's cat begs his owner to buck up and maybe throw a party or something: "I'll cater / with all the birds that I can kill / let their tiny feathers fill / disappointment." But running underneath all the effervescence and cleverness is a reassuring awareness that life is hard and can be pretty disappointing. Reconstruction Site is like a soothing balm for one's psychic wounds.
One final word: the CD is enhanced, and some of the extra material can really mess with your hard drive if you're a Mac user. Some of the extras can be viewed on the band's Web site at www.theweakerthans.org if you don't want to risk it.
Publication date: 10/30/03