There's a certain authority in the tenor of John K. Samson's well-schooled power pop that can be a little daunting. It's not just that the Weakerthans' leader is hyperaware of the shoulders on which he stands -- clever writers like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe -- but also of the people about whom he sometimes sings: Class, today we will be singing a power ballad about the life and times of arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton
. But there is much to glean from Samson's work, and tunes like "Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call" and "The Prescience of Dawn" are filled with elegiac observations about the everyday world and set within huge, beautifully distorted rock riffs. The layered songwriting gives this, the third Weakerthans effort, a lot of legs and leaves Samson with few peers (Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay comes to mind). And even though there are times when the geek routine is taken a step too far ("Our Retired Explorer [Dines With Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961]" is the name of a pop song? Puh-lease), if you sing along, you might just learn something.