When he is chasing the beat of another song, Postdoc blues, he sings “Don't despair, you'll get it right, tomorrow night, in Thunder Bay, maybe. Don't delay, your day is short, you can't afford to wait.” He is running with clothing hanging out of the briefcase of this song. He is making excuses for his characters mistakes that they haven’t made yet.
The first track “Select All Delete” plays universal defeat, it plays winter, a fallow, a failed harvest, a failed romance. And the response (in technology speak) is to wipe the canvas clean, to get out, to slow dance with the burden of acceptance, quietly.
In “Requests” track four to Winter Wheat, Samson stays old, human, dour, yes, yet slightly upbeat. He relies on nature to save his grief. “I want you to hear the farm apologize, For letting you believe you could return, I want you to dream in all the languages we couldn't learn, I want you to write my name under your name, With the year I was born and you began to disappear.”
In “Capitol” he speaks in a past tense he cannot keep up with, as his guitar moves marching forward into a dystopian future that he plays out to be inevitable. “So when they wonder where the money went, And we can't swim here anymore, And bankers warble algorithmically from the shore, The stations pump the new austerity, The Ogallala Aquifer and crackling California reservoirs making sure, Priced out of that old neighborhood for good.”
Every song plays a side, technology vs. nature, are we bettering ourselves and forgetting to better the world, forgetting that we are part of the world.
Do we expect technology to improve us?
In an interview with The A.V club regarding the album he is quoted “I’m really interested in how technology is altering the way we interpret the world. It seems like everyone, especially those of us who have lived in a world with and without the internet, is obsessed by how it is changing the way we live and think.”
It is an important question to ask right now, and John asks it with a blue collar, a universal and understanding tone, one you will hear in a small town without wifi, something genuine, something hand written and worthwhile.
“May the birds answer carabiner clicks
Carry off the tiny seeds
Better ways to be alive
May it all seem plausible wherever we land
May we grow” - Prayer for Ruby Elm
Winter wheat is wheat that withstands the harsh months to save the soil from spoiling. Who will withstand your harsh months to save you from spoiling? Will technology? Will technology every truly put forth those warm feelings, like art does, like love does?
So ends my review on Winter Wheat, a smart, kind, very well written album.
Now I’m going to gush on the last track of the album “Virtute at Rest”
If you are unaware of the Virtute trilogy check out the Weakerthans songs
“Plea from a Cat Named Virtute” on Reconstruction Site
“Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure” on Reunion Tour.
I could write a thesis on these three songs. They are heartbreaking, they are enchanting, they are in the perspective of a cat with a heart the size of a city block.
In a mere minute and thirty-six seconds, our narrator, the ghost of the cat Virtute (alive only in memories) pleas and begs and rewards one last time for it’s owner (for which true, true love is exercised) to remember the good times and rest in the sun, accept all that you can’t change and rest in the sun.
It is a eulogy from a ghost that means only the purest of love.
You must listen to it.
“Now that the treatment and antidepressants
And seven months sober have built me a bed
In the back of your brain where the memories flicker
And I paw at the synapses, bright bits of string
You should know I am with you, know I forgive you
Know I am proud of the steps that you've made
Know it will never be easy or simple
Know I will dig in my claws when you stray
So let us rest here like we used to
In a line of late afternoon sun
Let it rest, all you can't change
Let it rest and be done”