The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
Tom Blackburn 28/11/2007
Respect has to be given to an artist who nips from one genre to another whilst staying focused and sounding like no-one except themselves. John K. Samson's Weakerthans are one such band, genre-hopping from power-pop to indie-rock to folk and all without alienating ex-Propagandhi man Samson's core punk audience.
Reunion Tour is the Weakerthans' fourth album, and as with its predecessors, is littered with rich stories and vivid characters. From ice hockey legend Gump Worsley to accidentally castrated Canadian David Reimer, Samson's storytelling is charming, poignant and evocative.
Take 'Tournament of Hearts' as an example. Samson steps into the shoes of a woman desperate to drown out her personal woes with the sport of, er, curling. Could anything be more punk rock than that? The everyman protagonist of 'Relative Surplus Value', meanwhile, could be any nearly-redundant office lackey were it not for the strength of Samson's lyrics ('By the time the market opens in Tokyo I'll be worthless').
But there's more to Reunion Tour than just a series of character sketches and quirky stories. The downbeat 'Utilities', the album's closer, sees Samson in introspective mood, unusually comparing himself unfavourably to essential everyday tools ('Seems the most I have to offer isn't much / Make it something somebody can use').
The best song here, though, has to be the excellent 'Sun in an Empty Room' which, in typical Weakerthans fashion, dresses self-deprecation, lost love and deep-seated personal anxiety in bright guitar pop. 'So take eight minutes and divide by ninety million lonely miles / And watch a shadow cross the floor / We don't live here anymore', sighs Samson over the album's most infectious slice of driving indie rock.
Anyone familiar with The Weakerthans will know what to expect - an articulate, eclectic mix of accomplished and melodic rock - and that's what they'll get. Reunion Tour isn't quite as good as Left and Leaving or Reconstruction Site, and it does have its weak points ('Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure' springs to mind) but it is another fine collection to add to the band's strong catalogue.