The Weakerthans: Sun in an Empty Room

I have already spoken at length about my admiration for The Weakerthans, but I left out a song that has really grown on me with repeated listening. Sun in an Empty Room from their Reunion Tour album is a classic example of the band’s ability to approach a story obliquely, leaving it up to the listern to decide what’s actually happening.

I can only speak to my interpretation, and it is not supported by the official music video. I hear this song, and I see a couple –once a happy couple– who took a chance and lived together, only to see their relationship fall apart. They decide to go their separate ways, and when their happy home has returned to its empty shell, this song follows, both philosphical and flippant, understanding and stubborn. The Weakerthans are a band that asks you to understand them on their own terms, and I listen to this song and beg the fates I never have to deal with this situation. Continue reading “The Weakerthans: Sun in an Empty Room”

The Weakerthans’ Cat Named Virtue

One of my favourite bands is the Weakerthans from Winnepeg, Manitoba. I first came across them a year or two back when they did an acoustic version of Civil Twilight on Toronto’s 89X. It’s the story of a bus driver whose route takes him regularly past the house where his love affair ended not with a bang, but a whimper. Most times he distracts himself, but whenever civil twilight falls over the icy streets of a Winnepeg winter he finds himself remembering what he lost. The song really spoke to me: I briefly dated a woman in Waterloo, and her apartment building was on Weber Street, which is one of the main drags of the city. Every time I passed her building, I felt a heavy sense of regret at a lost opportunity. I resolved to collect The Weakerthans entire discography, and I listen to it regularly.

They have a number of great songs that are worth a listen. One Great City is an homage to their home town, and the chorus goes ‘I… Hate [always said with a sigh]… Winnepeg.’ From the YouTube videos and bootlegs I know this to be a crowd favourite. Another of their songs is Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961), in which an eccentric Antarctic explorer regales a dinner guest about the forbidding land he’s come to love. At one point he asks, “Say do you have a ship, and a dozen able men, that maybe you could lend me?” You can see that this band really has a way of telling an unusual story.

I could talk at much greater length about the Weakerthans (and maybe some day I will), but this post is going to focus on an ongoing project the Weakerthans have indulged in: Writing from the perspective of a cat named Virtue. A teacher friend of mine was so taken with the idea that he plans to use it in a grade-school classroom as a teaching aid on viewpoints in stories.

Anyway, they’ve written two songs so far, and I’d be very surprised if their next album doesn’t include another one. They’re both dynamite, as the videos and lyrics will show.
Continue reading “The Weakerthans’ Cat Named Virtue”