Reconstruction Site, the third full-length from Canadian folk, alt-country, indie-rock, ex-punk rockers the Weakerthans, brings John Samson (ex-Propaghandi), John Sutton, Stephen Carrol, and Jason Tait into a much more mature musical territory, combining smart songwriting with smarter lyrics. While losing some of the immediacy and intensity that is often felt on younger, rougher releases, Reconstruction Site demonstrates what it’s like to grow as a band and work towards a slicker, more cohesive album.
The songwriting on this album lays subtle intricacies over some pretty basic pop structures. Aiming to put out a pretty straightforward release, this album misses out on more experimental songs such as “Without Mythologies” off 2000’s Left and Leaving, and album’s straightforwardness may actually be its biggest weakness. Even if you were to listen to this album and notice the hordes of things that your average pop-rock album doesn’t have, the complete package comes together in the end as a cohesive pop record, leaving those things as small treasures for those who care to take notice.
Lyrically, this album pulls from an extensive knowledge of literature and politics to provide really beautiful songs in the form of stories. “Plea from a Cat Named Virtue” is written from the perspective of someone’s cat, while “Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)” brings us tableside for an explorer’s lament about Antarctica. These songs parallel the intelligent music writing on this album, proving that the Weakerthans probably wear glasses, or are at least smarter than you.
“(Manifest),” the album’s first track, provides the framework for which the rest of the album follows, and sets the tone for a more upbeat release than the band’s previous ones that swings more to the alt-country end of the songwriting spectrum. “Plea from a Cat Named Virtue” and “Our Retired Explorer…” are the album’s best songs, and “(Hospital Vespers)” demonstrates the creativity and thought the band puts into its songs.
I’m not gonna lie; I have a soft spot for the Weakerthans. Left and Leaving proved to be my guilty pleasure for a long time. It got under my skin with its combination of honesty, sincerity and musical integrity. With Reconstruction Site, the band revisits this combination, and I’m just as guilty of liking it.