The first thing you need to understand about this album is that it is not punk in any traditional sense. The politics are not obvious, the music is not fast nor would it be likely to appeal to your average Fat Wreck or, oddly enough, Epitaph fan. Instead, The Weakerthans focus on the subtleties of politics – the effects on people, the real implications and results of policies… and, in almost every case, offer some hints at transcending these things. Essentially, The Weakerthans craft songs which are stories, documents of lives (their own, their friends, people they’ve imagined) that resonate because the details are all too true. The music veers between country-inflected pop and straight-forward rock and roll, ringing with instrumentation which doesn’t seem to have much of a place in most contemporary music – found gadgets that make interesting percussive noises, lap and pedal steel, glockenspiels, keyboards… the list simply goes on. The strength of this album isn’t in its catchiness – the first two Weakerthans discs were far more immediately accessible. This album’s strength lies in how much repeated listening it bears. I have easily heard this record more than one hundred times since I got it (for about two months, it was my morning rotation – period) and I still can’t get enough of it. It’s true that these songs seem gentle and comforting, that they present a form of musical solace for the lonely and disenfranchised, for people who are struggling merely to feel alive, if not actually live. It’s also true that they represent what music, at its best, can be – something which replaces the “bitter songs [we] sing,” which reduces the humiliation and anger which results from the “small defeat[s] the day demands,” which reminds us that we all possess reserves of inner strength which we have not yet begun to tap.