The Weakerthans’ stalwart (former) frontman John K. Samson released his second solo album this month (called Winter Wheat), and we found ourselves digging through the crates to listen back to some of our most-loved tracks from the storied Winnipeg ensemble.
Among our favorites is “Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961),” from 2003’s finely-wrought Deconstruction Site.
Like many classic Samson tunes, the song springs from a wholly contrived, quasi-surreal scene: an imagined conversation between French philosopher Michel Foucault and a grizzled former explorer from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition.
The lyrics are elliptical and hilarious; Derrida gets name-dropped (cleverly rhyming with “Antarctica”), and we’re never quite sure whether Foucault, who brings flowers to the meal, is hitting on his dinner guest. The whole song passes by in a kind of headlong felicity and is finished in under three minutes.
Samson, among other pursuits, spends time these days as an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia, which is apropos, since “Our Retired Explorer” offers a wonderful miniature of how to craft a smart, infectious pop song.