Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: John K. Samson - Provincial

by Mark Gillis

It would be correct to call John K. Samson a musician, he does make music after all. He’s made some great records as the front-man for The Weakerthans and was the bassist for Canadian punk band Propagandi. Provincial is John’s first full-length solo effort, and he makes music on it, so it would still be correct to call him a musician, even though I personally believe that it would be more correct to call him a poet.

Throughout John’s career with The Weakerthans he has been renowned for his talents as a songwriter. On past albums from The Weakerthans John has been able to capture so many different situations with very clever and elegant wordplay. It makes sense that he would still showcase those same songwriting chops on Provincial, but these songs have a very distinct flavour to them.

It’s not accident that this album it titled Provincial, for the simple fact that all of these songs deal with John’s home province of Manitoba in some way. It’s something that initially made this album a difficult one for me to fully grasp since I’m not from Manitoba and I've never been to Manitoba. There were a lot of different references that I knew I was missing. It just made me fell a little bit alienated. I felt like these songs were meant for a very specific audience and I was just being left out.

As I gave the album more listens I started to feel better about the subject matter.When I just started to disregard that these lyrics were so specific to Manitoba, I found that a lot of them were generally about where you grew up, whether it was in Manitoba or not. There are even some reference to video games and computer programming in a couple songs, so as long as you can get past all the Manitoba references, I think this album will have something to offer everyone.

My personal favourite track is a petition to get Manitoba native and former NHLer Reggie Leach into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. The song is aptly titled “”. At that website you’ll find an actual petition to get Reggie Leach (aka The Riverton Rifle) into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. It may be a little cheesy to name a song like that, but I actually think it’s quite clever.

Musically this album is alright. There are a couple of tracks like ‘When I Write My Masters Thesis’ and ‘Longitudinal Centre’ that rock pretty hard, although those are probably the only two tracks that do so on this album. I hate to say it, but for the most part I find the music on here rather uninteresting. There aren’t really any sounds here that draw me in, it’s a pretty straightforward indie rock album. I even find that a few songs sound eerily similar to some songs from The Weakerthans. So if you’re looking for something that’s really musically interesting you won’t find it here. In my opinion the music on these tracks are backing for John’s supreme lyricism.

So in short, this album is one that is light on the music but is so lyrically rich. It’s almost like a good hip-hop album in that I find myself discovering new references and imagery with each passing listen. Ultimately, this album is just about where you're from and where you grew up, and listening to someone sing so adeptly about that just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

You can follow me on Twitter @Mark__Gillis

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