Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Weakerthans, "One Great City!" (2003)


Just because I made a big deal out of the song "Nightime" by Big Star, and just because I'm about to do something like that for this great song by the Weakerthans (from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), that doesn't automatically mean I love songs because they use the word "hate" with such conviction. But it certainly doesn't hurt. And it doesn't hurt that I think I know something of where chief songwriter, singer, and guitarist John K. Samson might be coming from. For at least the three minutes this lasts the focus of his loathing, and a very pure version of it too, is the city of Winnipeg. Some places are cold—they're cold even when they are warm for others, and some places feel like they are always cold. Samson runs down some good details in the verses—mostly he puts the sentiment in the mouths of others, a clerk at a Dollar Store counting Loonies, a commuter stuck in traffic. But in the end it seems to be coming more or less from Samson: "... our Golden Business Boy will watch the North End die, and sing 'I love this town,' then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim, 'I hate Winnipeg'"—taking dead aim at a great Manitoban symbol with naked scorn and derision. On the other hand, it's 10 years later and Samson is still living in Winnipeg and by all indications reasonably happy—married, solo career, etc. So we all grow up, I guess that's the lesson here, and a good thing. But we pass through times, through moods, through sour days or hours, when we feel like this song too. It's almost exhilarating to hear it expressed so purely.

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