It took a certain amount of memory-jogging for me to remember why The Weakerthans are constantly getting referred to as part punk, part folk. The music isn’t that punky, but frontman John K. Samson was in Propagandhi. Right. Got it now. What I tend to think of the band as is “that Epitaph (now Anti-) band whose album with the nice cover is always in the used bin,” or, more recently, “the band that always gets my attention when I set Pandora.com on Frightened Rabbit radio.” Pandora always delivers the same song: “One Great City!” from that always-available-used album, Reconstruction Site. “The Guess Who suck / the Jets were lousy anyway,” Samson sings, before getting to the line, drawn out and tired, that sticks in my head: “I … hate … Winnipeg.”
Samson’s slightly nasal voice might remind you of John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, though Samson sounds less high-strung; he might also, on occasion, remind you of Eugene’s Dan Jones. The band’s most recent full-length (they also recently released a live iTunes EP), 2007’s Reunion Tour, puts Samson’s voice front and center in 11 songs that can blur together, the tempo rarely drifting too far in any direction. If you don’t listen carefully, the album is over before you realize it; if you focus on Samson’s dense, storytelling lyrics, you might find your perspective has shifted. “Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure” (the sequel, if you will, to Reconstruction Site’s “Plea from a Cat Named Virtue”) is a tiny heartbreak that can’t reveal itself until the instruments quiet; the verse that’s just guitar and Samson’s resigned voice bares the song’s sweetness. When the sturdy rhythm steps up and the music swells as Samson sings, “I can’t remember the sound that you found for me,” the Weakerthans’ easygoing indie-folk-rock suddenly takes on a different tone; what was hidden in the mild, mellow songs strikes a brighter spark. The Weakerthans and Jason Collett (of Broken Social Scene) play at 9 pm Friday, July 24, at the WOW Hall. $15. — Molly Templeton
I knew the music of the band Arkhum would get my husband’s attention. As soon as I played the video for their song “Grief Urchin,” (a title which makes me want to give the band members lots of hugs) he headed over to my desk to check it out. We briefly debated whether or not their name came from H.P. Lovecraft or Batman, until we agreed (before he ran off to play Star Wars on the Wii) that any band with a skeletal logo and a sound like grindcore stretched to fit a longer song framework, that alternates between Earache and Road Runner old-school death metal, would surely be Lovecraftian in influence.
Indeed, Arkhum guitarist and vocalist Stephen Parker clarifies that “Arkhum are heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft’s style of writing and the somewhat disturbing nature of some of his work.” Arkhum is just one of five local extreme metal bands that you can see at the WOW Hall this weekend along with Dismal Lapse, from Auburn, Calif. (Flesh Consumed was originally scheduled but is unable to make the show.)
Parker, along with business partner Jon Gillum, manages Nothing Sacred Promotions. The pair promote concerts of any genre, but Parker says he would like to get the word out about local bands in the death/black metal genre. “By setting up this show,” Parker says, “I am hoping to open up the minds of the Eugene and Springfield youth to a heavier side of music.” Atonement, Arkhum, Dismal Lapse, Necryptic, Tormentium and Brahmin play at 6 pm Saturday, July 25, at the WOW Hall. $5. — Vanessa Salvia