When I was introduced to The Weakerthans back around 2007 or so, it was like this band that all my friends seemed to already know about, except for me.
The band, if you’re not familiar, is a an indie-rock band, power-pop with a just a light touch of punk, something lead singer and primary lyricist John K. Samson earned the hard way by performing for years with the Winnipeg punk band Propagandhi.
There’s something academic about Samson’s writing style that makes it seem personal and studied, not quite emo, but maybe in the same ballpark. Like, say, Craig Finn, he came to a sort of mainline rock sound after having seen a couple of things. But the resulting music was much more approachable and introspective than his punk roots perhaps suggest. I guess the way I’d describe it the vibe is, “what happens to the punk guy when he’s no longer really the punk guy?”
Anyway, I bring The Weakerthans up because they are responsible for hands-down the best life-transition record out there, 2000’s Left & Leaving, an album that perhaps has few equivalents (The Wrens’ Meadowlands, perhaps?) but represents a certain end-of-your-20s vibe, where you suddenly realize that you need to move forward but you’re not quite sure what that moving forward looks like. The first song, called “Everything Must Go!,” speaks to an emotional purging, and it kind of evolves from there.
I’ve been thinking about this album the last couple of days, because I think it really describes what is happening with social media right now. You don’t know who’s sticking around, or who you need to work a little harder to keep in touch with, but it feels like people are desiring an escape from the moment. And that is a vibe Left & Leaving plays into throughout the whole album, but especially on the title track.
A few sample lyrics:
The stain in the carpet, this drink in my hand
The strangers whose faces I know
We meet here for our dress rehearsal to say
I wanted it this way
Wait for the year to drown
Spring forward, fall back down
I’m trying not to wonder where you are
All this time
Who’s left and who’s leaving
He’s singing about Winnipeg, but he could very easily be singing about Twitter over the last month.
On Sunday evening, after witnessing an actual astronaut, the twin brother of a senator who helped his wife recover from a horrible attempt on her life, get aggressively attacked by a fake astronaut and his fair-weather followers for the crime of defending a public servant and a marginalized community, I pulled the trigger. I locked my Twitter account. I will soon be on the left side of the left and leaving argument.
I have struggled with the left and leaving argument in my head for a few weeks. Will I be missing someone if I leave? Will people I care about just quit social media altogether?
There are some awkward things that need to be considered as we make this big transition, subcultural shifts that we must prepare ourselves for. People from underrepresented groups, will find themselves caught in the middle of an exodus, and we need to find ways to ensure they can make it to the next step, whatever that is.
But the alternative is increasingly becoming untenable. At least for me. I know others have different calculus. That’s fine. But I hope we stay connected somehow, in some way.
Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes
Time left on clock ⏲: 1 minute, 21 seconds