Updated: Dec 28, 2021
During the Summer of 2020 I discovered The Weakerthans. The songs were emotional and so well written. I dove into the lyrics and played the songs repeatedly. Then I did what I do when I discover a new band. I tried to add them to my social media. I really couldn’t find anything. So, I googled the band. Turns out the band has been on “hiatus” since 2014. I felt as sad a s a The Weakerthans’ song. I would never be able to see this band live. Worse, there wouldn’t be any more new songs. The Winnipeg based band had left me completely in the cold.
The beautiful thing I love about this band are the lyrics. In “Sun in an Empty Room,” their most streamed song, they tell the story of a breakup by describing the empty apartment the couple will be leaving behind. The sing opens with the following six lines:
Now that the furniture's returning to its goodwill home
With dishes and last week's paper
Rumors and elections
Crosswords, an unending war
The black in our fingers
Smear their prints on every door pulled shut
The opening line kills me. It’s as if the couple was only borrowing the furniture. It’s a confession of something temporal and of a certain economic reality of the relationship. The dishes wrapped in newspaper would have been enough imagery in most songs. But the fact that the paper carries the news of the world, and that world saturates the lives of this couple and even smudges the apartment itself adds lovely layers to the song. Like Michael Stipe (R.E.M.’s lead singer), John K. Samson’s voice cam emotes such sadness. It makes for beautiful music.
Of course, John K. Samson continues to record. He still can take you for a side ride through song. But The Weakerthan’s vibe is gone.
It’s wonderful we can discover new music, past and present, so easily. When I was a kid discovering new music meant someone’s older sibling had a bootleg cassette tape. Other than that, you just listen to what everyone else listened to on the radio. During the Summer of 2020 I discovered several old bands; Ben Lee, Dispatch (how did I miss these guys?), and The Kooks. The great thing was that I’ve been able to enjoy new music from these artists as I learned about their older music. Unfortunately, with The Weakerthans, I may never have that opportunity. Fortunately, there are four albums to explore and re-explore.
“Sun in an Empty Room written by John K Samson, Jason Tait, Greg Scott Smith, Stephen Allan Carroll