Analogue Music | The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
Reunion Tour

Reunion Tour

Artist: The Weakerthans · Written by Scott Elingburg

Date Released

25 September, 2007


Epitaph / ANTI

I'm not sure America ever figured out how to handle the stark intimacy of The Weakerthans.

Even now descriptors of the band's sound vacillate from "folk punk" to post-indie rock with alt-country twang. The only general agreement being that the band was far too intelligent and approachable to be emo and far too removed from singer/songwriter/guitarist John K. Samson punk origins in Propaghandi to be considered punk; even hyper-literate punk. 

Released by Epitaph/ANTI- in 2007, Reunion Tour was the final album of new material the band released and it exists, for me, as one of the last CDs to inhabit my vehicle in the years when compact disc players came standard in cars. Running on an infinite loop for the fourth quarter of 2007, Reunion Tour gave us moments of delirious heights and a couple jagged lows--or at least what I thought were lows. It was an album out of time, it's title now a cruel mocking from years past. It is also a record deeply appreciated ten years later, now that the band is frozen in time with no new material forthcoming. 

It is tempting to identify Reunion Tour as a final chapter. Even though they band released, Live at the Burton Cummings Theater in 2010, that sounded more like an encore call than an epilogue. Still, the irony of the album's title isn't lost on those of us who quietly pine for more songs about cats, thawing ice, and hockey or shuffleboard or hearts or whatever the hell game it is that they play in the upper North American provinces.   

"Reunion Tour" is only one of the many tracks the band and songwriter John K. Samson devoted to awkward, painful, yet always recognizably human vignettes.

Ten years later, almost to the day, Reunion Tour plays and sounds like a record out of its time. Not necessarily ahead of its time, but an album in a time capsule. Like so many records from the first decade of the aughts, the whole of Reunion Tour could never be appropriately absorbed upon its initial release. The immediacy of lead track "Civil Twilight" and the cool calm of "Sun In an Empty Room" are classic-formula Weakerthans; songs that you might share on a mixtape or litter around a personal Spotify playlist. Those tracks still land with the same personal potency of earlier, *Left and Leaving*-era material, but alongside wholly, deeply underrated tracks like "Relative Surplus Value," "Utilities," and "Night Windows"--which sounds like the closeted half-cousin to *Reconstruction Site*'s highlight track, "One Great City!"--Reunion Tour is a complete picture of every element the band nailed down in its all-too-brief tenure.   

But The Weakerthans are (I refuse to use past tense, for fear of losing all hope) a band that could grab your attention with "Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure" and you could be completely ignorant of its prequel, "Plea From a Cat Named Virtute." (Or that the cat's name is "Virtute" (pronounced "ver-too-tee") and is not, in fact, "virtue," as I so incorrectly told everyone I knew.) Even their quieter, odder moments ("Elegy from Gump Worsely," "Bigfoot!") were strategically placed to set you up for the right kind of surprise rocker. Like when the lovely, oddball "Bigfoot!" dies down before the wind-up of the title track, "Reunion Tour," cranks up and brings the album to its honest, near-perfect apex. 

"Reunion Tour" is only one of the many tracks the band, specifically songwriter John K. Samson, devoted to awkward, painful, yet recognizably human vignettes. Like Tobias Wolff with more empathy, Samson always structured songs with the phrasing of a poet (no, really) and the heart of working-class hero. 

"Relative Surplus Value" portrays an dutifully recognizable white collar number cruncher racing to an emergency meeting, his "heart pumping pure mini-bar" and fading into the color of lukewarm coffee while observing that "the pause feels like an extra year/ of high school." When he asks, "What's the damage?" its not rhetorical, it's just resigned. But it's the kind of resignation that goes beyond being identifiable or easily spoken of. The same kind of resignation that the protagonist sees and experiences in "Reunion Tour," except he (she?) finds it in "the daily prayers of setlists / tender jokes about / retards and crashes and queers." Even if it reads like profane lyrics on the page, Samson delivers it all with sincerity and total regard for the song. It's all he's got to hold on to and all he's got to offer us.     

You don't have to be a fan of The Weakerthans to love Reunion Tour but it sounds like it was made for listeners who were willing to take it seriously, for fans who were willing to follow the narrative arc of one great Canadian band as they headed off into the great white North of our emotional center.