Let me introduce you to The Weakerthans. They are a band. They are from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where, I’ve heard, it’s cold and icy. The Weakerthans, however, are not cold and icy. They are warm. They make the type of music that reminds you that you are alive and pumping full of blood. The guitars they play sound like that feeling you have when you make tea and the whistle goes off and you grab the kettle and slowly pour the water into a mug and the steam rises and, again, you know you’re alive. And the lyrics they write sit back. They wait for a while, until you don’t even realize you’re listening to the lyrics anymore, and then they show up fast, and say things in a way that you’ve always wanted to say things but you never actually know how to shape words to the immense contours of the moment. No worries, friend. The Weakerthans know how to do that.
Like, for example, these from a song called “Watermark”: I’ve got this storebought way of saying I’m okay, and you’ve learned how to cry in total silence.
Or these, that I’m sure are about grief, from the same song: Hold on to the corners of today, and we’ll fold them up to save until it’s needed. Stand still. Let me scrub that brackish line that you got when something rose and then receded. Hold on.
Or these from “None of the Above”: We can’t look at one another. I’ll say something thoughtful soon, but I can’t listen to the quiet. So I’ll hum this mindless tune I stole from some dumb country rock star. I don’t even know his name.
Or these, perhaps my favorite, from “Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist”: I swear I way more than half believe it when I say that somewhere love and justice shine, cynicism falls asleep, tyranny talks to itself, sappy slogans all come true, we forget to feed our fear.
The Weakerthans also sing songs about cats. Actually, they sing two songs about one cat, named Virtute, who begs her depressed owner to be strong. And, we realize, that’s really all The Weakerthans are asking us to do, but they admit that strength cannot be fostered alone or measured on scales predeterminately fixed.
So if a thesis has to be mined from The Weakerthans’ incredible corpus, it must at least mention strength, the loss of it, and its recapture. And in my opinion, a thesis along these lines might be found in a song called “Pamphleteer.” You know those cheesy moments when you’re watching a movie and one of the characters says the movie’s title in an all-too-well-timed bit of dialogue? “Pamphleteer” has a moment like that, only in this song it makes all the sense in the world. It goes like this: ‘No force on earth could be weaker than the feeble strength of one,’ like me remembering the way it could have been.
Let’s imagine for a second that The Weakerthans extracted their band name from this lyric, the first part of which is actually part of a hilarious union song written in 1915 called “Solidarity Forever.” I’ll let you look it up. Anyways, that would mean they, as a band, are a collective unit made up of these feeble, lonely, strength-sapped “weaker thans.” But together, as The Weakerthans, they make music that pulses and, like I’ve said twice already, reminds you that you’re alive, that you have feeling in your fingers, and that though you are weaker than, you are in fact very strong.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.