Sunday, March 22, 2015
Weakerthans – “One Great City” from Reconstruction Site (2003 Epitaph)


I need to get a really big complaint about this album off my chest before we go any further. First, I think Weakerthans are delightful and that John K. Samson is a gifted songwriter. Further, I think the songs on Reconstruction Site are wonderful and I always enjoy hearing snippets of them used as bumper music on NPR broadcasts. But holy hell, if this thing isn’t digitally compressed to the point of being nearly unlistenable, I don’t know anything about music. The cymbals sound like a shrill tinny triangle from a primary school music class being broadcast through a clock radio that only has an A.M. band.

Here’s my question, and I really hope I receive some answers via the comments feature: AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS EVER NOTICED THIS? I had a CD version of the album, which I converted, at some point, to a digital file (thus its appearance on this blog). Does anybody out there have the LP? Does it sound like that? I get real fired up about this, because it’s super irksome to have what is otherwise a tremendous record with such absolutely shitty sound.

For the most part, “One Great City!” (a song with a title that I feel like must be an allusion to something but I don’t know what, so that’s helpful) doesn’t suffer from this, existing as it does as an acoustic ballad buried fairly deep within the album. Even so, there are moments where the frequency of the higher guitar strums combines with the idiosyncracies of the recording and mastering process to create a very difficult chimey sound that would take a listener out of the song if the song wasn’t so good.

The music is understated guitar beauty, the perfect backdrop to Samson’s smart narrative about a city that, despite the “I hate Winnipeg” refrain, he clearly loves. I’ve never been to Winnipeg somehow, but having recently felt the visceral pull back to my native Twin Cities, I can relate: it’s a tale of everything that’s wrong with a place and how those best poised to complain would also go to great lengths to defend those very things against outside forces. In this case those forces take the form of the gentrifying “golden business boy,” (a figure who has recently been cast in my mind’s eye as Nelson Hidalgo from the HBO drama Treme).

I’ll get to Winnipeg yet, but in the meantime I will continue to work to appreciate and defend the very things I’m inclined to hate about the place I love.


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