Saturday, November 29, 2008

Music I like- The Weakerthans

Music in its highest form ought to stretch us and leaves us better than we were before we heard it. It might break our heart, or make our being swell. It might help us to think in a way completely foreign to us, or make us remark "I've always thought that, but I never had the words to say it." The music of The Weakerthans does all of is music which I find nearly impossible to listen to in a passive way.

Louis Zukofsky, an American poet wrote " Writing occurs which is the detail, not mirage, of seeing, of thinking with the things as they exist, and of directing them along a line of melody”. To me this is precisely what the lyrics of Weakerthans songs accomplish. The lyrics might be written from the point of view of a cat, or a bus driver, or as in the song above- a man lingering at a curling lounge reluctant to go home. The lyrics are detail, and combined with the music the songs powerfully focus on the emotion present in the given situation. Ezra Pound wrote of poetry "Only emotion endures." (Zukofsky goes on to write "Only emotion objectified endures.)--and as such many, many of The Weakerthans' songs are the essence of the emotion in a given snippet of the presented situation.

Their music reminds me when I feel overwhelmed by the business of my life that the white dogwood blossoms against a deep magenta sky at sunset-matter. That the people I meet who each have their own unique stories of joy and heartbreak-matter. That the deer crossing the frost covered field and have a life of their own-matter. And they matter because they are all connected and bring forth the very essence of living the human condition.

As a great example, here are the lyrics from the song, "Without Mythologies" from the album Left and Leaving:

Without Mythologies

A soft breeze with the slippery concrete black and full of muddy slush,
contrasting with the hoarfrost,
clean and hung on a tunnel of silent shivering trees
(the ones you said you'd like to be),
and the birds that screamed at the sun
now buried deep down below the ground,
beneath the snow, I press my shoulder to this wall between us.
I know you are behind me but I press my shoulder to this wall,
determined not to turn around.
I know I'll see you standing,
still that statue that I molded in my mind to kiss,
so beautiful you'll never move again.
Someplace far away, at some sad table littered with bad light,
with chipped plates,
in 48 frames from a movie on the cutting room floor,
you said "True meaning would be dying with you",
and though I wanted to, I did not smile.
But now I will give up on this wall that we have fought with,
never uncover meaning behind our rich words.
If I could I would make you a raging river,
with angry rapids, supplied with rain,
so you could always meander
and forever be able to run away
without contending with myths wrongly interpreted with pain.
A harsh wind.

If you'd like to hear more Weakerthans they have a great MySpace page. There are lots of songs to listen to for free--if you click on the "Choose playlist" button on the music player on the page, there are selections from several albums and the "artist's choice". The Weakerthans homepage has a really great set of links to peruse-with other interesting music, some great visual art, and literature, as well as some other things. And lyricist and lead singer John K. Samson also runs? a progressive publishing house , Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Happy listening!


  1. We have lots in common it seems. I too like the weakerthans, though I haven't given them as much thought as you have. I'm loving more electronic music these days like the theivery corporation and the gotan project and hands upon black earth, but my all time favorite writers of lyrics are Bob Dylan and Lou Reed.

  2. OOh! I just downloaded some songs with Dylan and Johnny Cash together from here:

    It's soooo awesome!

    Looks like I've got me some new bands to go seek out! How exciting! My husband just brought me into the 21st century by getting me an ipod for our anniversary/Christmas present-so it's been really fun poking around for some new things to listen to! Thanks for the recommends!