"Avoid Trends and Cliches" - A Bad History of The Tragically Hip - Page 3

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Thread: "Avoid Trends and Cliches" - A Bad History of The Tragically Hip

  1. #21
    There is some truth to that. Many of the relatively few members there (talk about a contradiction of terms) definitely know their music, or at least the genres they're into. Of course if you were a little behind on something like hard bop modal jazz done by country artists or something like that, then you didn't know anything about music and you didn't belong there. Yeah, there were a couple snobs to be sure. I think the big problem is they treat the place as a social site and the music seems to be secondary. Obviously, the music is secondary here too, but it's supposed to be; after all, we are a writing site.

    Also, there is absolutely no supervision. The new mod there tries her hardest to make things more civil but she's like on her own island. In other words, there isn't much in the way of support and certainly nothing in the way of protection. When I left here and joined over there, and being former staff here as well, I was shocked at what little the mods did to make MB a more pleasant place. I mean, I couldn't believe it.

    But Troll is right when he says there are some really good people over there. One guy in particular is especially civil and is even well- respected. Of course it is mostly guys. How many women are actually over there, maybe four? Anyway, there are a handful of guys there who wouldn't last a day on another forum, and especially on a writing forum like here, There is all kind of baiting and flaming and, for the most part, they get away with it. Even the guy that threatened someone with a gun came back after a week's time out. The other guy got six months earlier for simply losing his temper (something he did often actually, but he also had a target on his back so to speak).

    Anyway, it's easier for me to stay away because I don't have the time invested there the way Troll does, or the time I've invested here. Hopefully between the three of us (and hopefully more), we can make All Things Music another place for writers to show their skills or at least be a nice extension of the Lounge where we talk about our favorite artists and what not. Like they say, Rome wasn't built in a day

    (maybe it was a week? I have to check up on that)
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    And check out Gertie's blog on her favorite top twenty-five albums between 1955-2017 Hidden Content

  2. #22
    It's too bad the place got like that. I hope my prying wasn't out of line, and hopefully we can make this place a friendlier hangout!
    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

  3. #23
    No, not at all. We've been talking about "That other place" for a while so it's natural people would be curious.
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    And check out Gertie's blog on her favorite top twenty-five albums between 1955-2017 Hidden Content

  4. #24
    Information comes from the album liner notes, Wikipedia, Google, and special mention goes to hipmuseum dot com. All errata are entirely mine alone. Also, this format’s pale imitation was consciously and unconsciously stolen from mrmustard615 and Trollheart.


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    In Between Evolution is the first album I ever bought. The singles were fantastic. This album sold well but was knocked down soon after release by Avril Lavigne. Oh well. I suspect lots of Hip fans had a similar reaction to this album as me. We get some amazing Hip combined with some of their worst material to date. Only one song is truly bad, but it was disappointing second half. With the benefit of a deeper listen, I haven’t budged on my initial take.

    Nice smooth, loud guitar sound on this one. I like the way the drums kick in after the first few notes of the guitar. Johnny Fay really rattles it out on this one and his drums are enjoyably conspicuous here. I like how abruptly the song ends too.

    I’ve seen reviews that rate this as a low point of the album, but I disagree. It’s rambunctious and it has punk aesthetics, which they’ve toyed with from time to time. It starts the album in traditional style, loud and fast. This is one of the punkiest songs, with Gord’s voice having a frenetic quality and he sounds like he’s holding on to the key by his pinkie toes. Fun! Good! Yes!

    The liner notes dediate this song to Dan Snyder, a hockey player I’ve never heard of. He died in a car crash during recording. Apparently, he was a model player, a “glue guy,” the one who is keeping up morale and setting a great example both on and off the ice.

    The song is not a downer, far from it. It seems to celebrate this type of guy and his sportsmanlike attitude and laments his loss.

    “If and when you get into the endzone
    Act like you've been there a thousand times before
    Don't blame don't say people lose people all the time anymore”
    “Heaven is a better place today because of this
    But the world is just not the same”

    A more typical sounding Hip track, with a comfortable beat and weird verses. You get some country-style guitar here and cymbals out the wazzoo. Gord’s vocals are less strained here, more passionate, a little yelpy.

    The song seems to be complaining about the touring which the band has been doing for 20 years by now. Here’s this band that has all these songs they want to play and love writing, but they also have to play them over and over and always be entertaining. I think that’s something bands have always struggled with. Perhaps complain is the wrong word, Gord does not seem frustrated, merely exhausted from doing a damn good job. There is also a touch of sarcasm I think, expressing a thankfulness that this is the height of their troubles: "Oh woe is me, I have to play music for a living!" And… is that Gord getting cocky in the middle stanza?!

    “Come on up here we got something to show ya
    Wanna show you everything we know
    Wanna show you we can vanish before ya
    Wanna show you we got our blind roads”

    And does your family know your wishes?
    Cause this chorus'll do ya like the dishes

    Summer's killing us!
    It's just sing sing sing all day
    It's as if summer just exists in her praises”

    The phrases, “summer exists in her praises” is lost on me. Gord, in an interview, doesn’t help matters:

    "Well, maybe Summer doesn't exist unless we say it does, unless we give it a name."

    Sure. I love the song though.

    Oh, I love this song. We have here a simple tale, though one that exemplifies an idea of emasculation, powerlessness, and captivity. It could very easily be viewed as an analogy for a host of scenarios. Gus is, indeed, a polar bear who was in the Central Park Zoo. The bear was lethargic and likely depressed. Gord summarizes the situation like so:

    “When it's either them or it's us anything that moves and
    Everything you see is something to kill and eat
    What's troubling Gus? Is it nothing goes quiet? (What's troubling Gus)
    Is that what's troubling ya Gus the mere mention of the name (Is that what's troubling ya Gus)
    Used to be enough to make every bird stop singing? (Used to be enough)
    Is that what's troubling ya Gus? No one is afraid enough? (Is that what's troubling ya Gus)”

    This fearsome warrior is now a pet, fed by handlers and ogled by the smallest of bipeds.

    The song has this gorgeous drone sound to it, and Gord sings similarly. The repetitive nature of the verses also feeds this sedated, almost boring feeling. The song itself is not boring; the sounds conjure the idea of boring, to my mind. As in, the beast has no way of doing what it wants and is thus left to wander its pen, eat, or sleep.

    Some sources, including hipmuseum, posit that this song is an analogy for the presidency of George Jr. The war in Afghanistan is a well-established bog, and the new war in Iraq is not seeing the overwhelming support that the Afghanistan one did after the catalysing effect of 9/11. As such, George’s popularity and respect dwindles. It seems stretched, but I’ve seen this interpretation in a couple places.

    Wow this album starts strong. And it keeps going with this track, which I believe was the first single I heard from this album. It has a mysterious quality. We get a twisting guitar falsetto flitting into and out of the mix.

    A few sources I’ve looked at state this song is anti-war/Bush Jr. Downie was vocally anti-war and anti-Bush during their 2003 tour and considering how all-consuming Afghanistan and Iraq were on the news cycle back then, it’s no surprise this topic comes up. I’m not really convinced though, as the links appear tenuous. I’ve never had an interpretation of this song. I just like the way they play and sing.

    There does seem to be a thread of inevitability, or entropy, running through the song.

    “So, the chemistry's set”
    “It went down like a bad card table
    Like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge”
    “Burning down to embers' end”
    “Slowly falling star”
    “We’re rolling, so what?”

    Whatever the case, I love this song. I think this is the song that spurred me to buy the album.

    I was obsessed with this track. I would proselytize it at every opportunity. Nobody ever seemed to get into it as much as me, but I tried over and over nonetheless. I love the opening lines:

    “He said, ‘fuck this,’ and ‘fuck that.’
    And this guy’s the diplomat.”

    This song has Gord’s exact words to back up the anti-Bush themes. According to him this song was against "Toby Keith's of the world" who bought the Patriot Act politics back then, and who aided in selling the wars to the public. Gord has a dim view of patriotism, which I think I touched on, and people who were blindly writings songs of American exceptionalism. The imagery of bromides and blinding continues.

    “He said 'we are what we lack'
    And this guy's the autodidact
    Stares into the glare of them TV lights
    It can't be Nashville every night
    “He sang 'I'll die before I quit'
    And this guy's the limit
    Stares into the queer of the firefight
    It can't be Nashville every night”

    Once again, this was lost on me at the time. This is just a rocking good tune.

    I’m up and down on this one. Musically, I like the middle, but don’t care for either end. Gord has this weird singing, and I find the lines kinda dumb:

    “Your smile is fading a bit so I ration it
    Don't think about it”

    The middle is enjoyable. There’s nothing remarkable, no solo, nothing explosive, nothing evocative. This is a hipster song – Gord brought some people down to New Orleans because he wanted to show them that it was real and like, genuine man. But he changed his mind when the low-down, hep place he wanted to show his friends had closed down.

    Doesn’t do much for me. Feels like an outtake.

    We quicken the pace a bit. This one is fine. Another song that’s apparently anti-Bush, though once again I’m not getting it. There is a quote from Baker saying that at the time of recording, which occurred n the States, they felt like they were in the thick of the media smokescreen – That being the thing that is “everywhere” in the song. According to hipmuseum dot com, Gord is quoting and subverting some slogans:

    “write the Tiger” (“Ride the Tiger” being an old political slogan)
    “Be all that you can be” (US Army commercial slogan)

    We also get a litany of situations in which the eponymous “you” are there, some 24 hour TV topics, and what I would consider the media prime directive, that being the spinning and maintenance of the democracy tale:

    “You are there when I stop writing things down
    And when I forget about who I am now.
    Forget about who's kissing her who's behind my plow.
    Now it's time to drown all of that poetry out.
    Somehow, where democracy
    Is how we all learn to sleep”
    “There's no escaping this dream
    We're dancing with no distractions”

    When talking about mass media, people are often urged to “wake up” and cease being sheeple and to resist the TV mind-control. The original title for the song when it was being workshopped was “Ballroom.”

    A nice rocker. Love Fay’s little flourish that kicks the song off. We get a wall-of-sound guitar tone that reminds me a little of Queens of the Stone Age (Incidentally the new producer, Adam Kasper, produced Songs for the Deaf.)

    I have no idea what this track’s about. The most prominent scene is a basketball game, perhaps a practise or exhibition game:

    “You can't take your shots back. I have to watch them miss.
    The basketball rim shook like a tambourine.
    Not an unlikely event in a game that means nothing”

    But then…

    “You're a complex dune, I'm a cloud of octopus ink
    You're an elusive tune, I'm more ice sculpture than I think
    You're the neutral tribe and I got the wrong openness”

    I’ll settle for enjoying this one naively. It’s pleasant on the ears.

    Acoustic cut with a huge focus on Gord’s voice. Electrics splice in after the fist chorus and dip into and out of the song in a lovely, pensive way. This one comes and goes and it’s not a track that sticks in my memory, other than the opening lines. Even listening to it now closely, I find myself tuning out. Guess it isn’t for me. Usually I’m thinking about the next song…

    And its no wonder – This is a bad ass song, maybe my top pick of the album. Once again, we kick off the drums and we get the mean growling guitar. The song starts combative:

    “There’s me, then there’s you
    And I could dance with the puck
    In a telephone booth
    You said, ‘I don’t give a fuck,
    Besides enough about you…’”

    The whole second half of this two-and-a-half-minute banger has a great noodling guitar solo dancing around in the background. Amazing outro. We get this great bridge right at the solo begins:

    “And then
    Of course
    There's the dorsal fin
    Closing in that you can't outswim.
    ‘It's not him that I gotta outswim’ you said,
    ‘Just you,’ you said,
    ‘Just you.’

    Love this track beginning to end.

    A nice song. The track paints a nice image of a sea-side town, with some people and their problems existing in spite of the quaint and quiet. Once again, this one doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The boys sound good, but nothing about this song feels memorable.

    Plucky little acoustic bit. I think this is the first Hip song I ever hated. Blech. There’s a lot going on in the lyrics which seem to equate family squabbles with larger racial and political squabbles.

    Musically, this song is big-time boring.

    I’m sad to say the closer doesn’t make amends for the last few duds. It is much better. It doesn’t feel lost or meandering, nor does it bore me. At best I’d call it decent. And the “goodnight, goodnight” outro I actually like.

    I can’t find any reference as to where these two bonus tracks (“Night is for Getting” & “Fighter Fighter”) come from and I didn’t know they existed until I found the lyrics on hipmuseum.

    Couldn’t find a copy! The title is conspicuously a lyric from “Vaccination Scar,” which is also a recurring live poetic snippet from well before this album dropped.

    Found a live performance, presumably from the IBE tour. Sound quality isn’t great, but it sounds like a fun rocker. Fay’s drumming on show once again.

    It sounds like we’re revisiting classic Hip material, possibly heading back to wartime France. We get a soldier who is tired of fighting, wants to head home, and is surrounded by unfamiliar languages – Those of the civilians who question his presence, and those of the enemy who don’t need to speak English to communicate “I’m gonna kill you.”
    The following verse name-drops the Lord’s Resistance Army (Well before #Kony2012, by the by) and their child soldiers. This song feels like a typical war movie: War is hell and good people die. A good, solid message, but not treated differently than we’ve seen before.

    I liked it more than Mean Streak, Are We Family, and Goodnight Josephine so maybe it should have made the cut.

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    With all that said, wait patiently while I find the time to bang out the twelfth installment.
    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

  5. #25
    Information comes from the album liner notes, Wikipedia, Google, and special mention goes to hipmuseum dot com. All errata are entirely mine alone. Also, this format’s pale imitation was consciously and unconsciously stolen from mrmustard615 and Trollheart.

    2006: The year Bob Rock invaded.

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    The time has come. In Between Evolution was great with a heaping helping of disappointment, but it didn’t stop me running out in 2006 to grab the latest offering. I’d heard the lead single, “In View” and it intrigued me enough to justify the purchase even though it belied a noticeable shift in sound for the band. I had no idea what was in store. It was bright, it was bubbly. After this, I never bought another.

    It has been a long time since I listened right through this album. My impression, which comes from years ago, is that this album was the equivalent of Metallica’s black album. Bob Rock was brought on for the production this time around, and in the same way he pop-ified Metallica, I felt he had pop-ified the Hip. And like thrash metal fans, I felt a touch of betrayal.

    Even the artwork had this diluted and childish effect. The exterior was fine, if drab, but the inside looks like a corporate advertisement or a tween’s idea of “cool.” Hopefully that’s what they were going for. The most egregious thing was the branding. That globe logo is all over the liner notes. It felt tacky, corporate, and low. They didn't keep it going forward, nor should I have expected it since its an album logo, not a band logo. But that kind of marketing gimmick imagery didn't impress me. Oh, and the lyrics to "World Container" are written in that lame "word cloud" style that is trending lately. Maybe they did it before it was in fashion, but it still looks like garbage.

    With all of that said, I am looking forward to revisiting. With the experience of In Violet Light, and my impression of WC likely being antiquated, I anticipate a softening. After all, Metallica’s black album was great!

    Pop. Poppy pop poppity pop. This was a shocking opening track to me in 2006. It was peppy and enjoyable, but something was off. I enjoyed it then, despite the stylistic reservations, and I enjoy it now. It’s a decent track and whatever changes were going on the boys are playing with verve.

    I was struck by the apparent simplicity of the lyrics – It appears to be a straight-ahead water analogy, though you “You” are isn’t clear to me. Perhaps its any sort of adversity. According to hipmuseum, a book is referenced called “A Stranger to Myself,” the post-humous memoir of a poet and soldier fighting the Russians in the Wehrmacht. Gord does not deign to clarify, neither in the rest of the song, nor apparently in interviews.

    Oh well, still a decent opener, though it is marked by a similarity to the last album – It doesn’t feel mysterious or memorable.

    We open on a weird, distant, echoing sound that I assume is a guitar. Weird. That’s good! The band then busts in at speed. I like how the music breaks for the verses, then comes rushing back in between, it really works for me. Then, out of the blue, we get an odd interlude – It sounds like classical guitar or mandolin. Whatever, its great.

    I think Bob Rock’s influence might be showing itself here – It sounds clean and each instrument feels clear and precise, which is impressive when they’re going all-out together. Gord is at the forefront here, as well, possibly more than he’s ever been. His articulation is on display, and its lovely.

    This song reminds me of coming home from extracurricular activities, like hockey. In this case, they’re heading home through a blizzard, beautifully described as “snowy tomb.”

    More likely, it’s the tale of two people falling in love via local hockey, with the entanglements of seduction being likened to hockey moves:

    “You drove me home through a snowy tomb
    I fell asleep in my seat
    I had the dream of having no room
    You were there just staring at me

    I hear your voice ‘cross a frozen lake
    a voice from the end of a leaf
    saying, ‘you won’t die of a thousand fakes
    or be beaten by the sweetest of dekes’
    At the lonely end of the rink, you and me”

    I enjoyed it back in 2006, and I enjoy it even more now.

    In which the Hip go full pop. I hesitantly liked it at release, but I find it greatly improved with time. It’s a fun, loud song with Gord and the band putting a happiness on display I don’t think we’ve seen since Phantom Power. Again, the song is crystal clear. At this point, let’s just assume the productions is top notch for everything unless otherwise noted. We get some piano, and I think a glockenspiel? Maybe its just more piano. It’s pretty.

    The story is a man who wants to call someone, presumably a lover. Were they a past lover? Current? Or maybe a lover yet-to-be? We don’t know, but whatever the case the man focus is unrelenting: “You’re always in view.”

    I don’t think I’d call it deeper than the last two tracks, but the most interesting and typically cryptic Gord verse is at the end:

    “In the Day Eraser's dark of night
    In the Excited States, gone in plain sight
    Under the wave or by cavelight
    I lose, things change, but never in your eyes”

    Another up-beat, rocker slower than to the preceding few. I don’t feel the need to describe the song as a result of its similarity to those tracks. The song seems to be about travel on its surface, and perhaps about taking the high road and not getting bogged down by the inconsequential. That’s a nice sentiment. I don’t find it explored in an interesting way here. Freddie Mercury is name dropped. The only line I really like is:

    “Coastline rises like a pair of glowing thighs”

    So far, this album is almost barren – Gord’s evocative words, his penchant for odd but startling similes, metaphors, and characterisations is painfully absent. The songs are enjoyable, but… that’s not enough for a band with a history so rich.

    LOVE (SIC)
    I like the punny title. This is where the album lost me in 2006. Apart from a slight eerie feeling during the verses, the song feels generic. We get some of Gord’s literary interests, finally. The whole song is apparently built around the works of Northrop Frye, with one phrase quoted in the song:

    “Love is the only virtue there is.”

    Frye himself stumbled on this idea from the painter William Blake.

    I don’t care for the way these verses are constructed. I’m sure they’re effective in some contexts, but the usage of fragments or single words feels like how I and people I knew write poetry when we first crossed into the double digits:

    “There are words I carry in my heart
    Words I carry in my heart
    Clung to
    Glad of
    Uncommonly held
    Peculiarly held
    Peculiarly interlaced
    Remembered and felt”

    I love the way he sings them, which is the best part of the song. The bass nice too, real high in the mix so it’s a perpetual undercurrent. Twangy guitars, and the fuller guitar sound of the choruses, sound washed out and bland.

    If “Love (sic)” annoyed me, this is the song that made me turn off the stereo upon first listen. I found this to be the worst thing I’d heard, and faithless me felt the Hip might as well be dead. I’ll stick with IBE and before, thank you!

    In time, I warmed up to it, but going into it for this retrospective, I was not expecting much. It opens with a cussing guitar and a slow beat. Gord’s voice here is warbly, tenuous. I’m liking it a lot more now. I love his insane “woo!” that pops up now and then. This song feels insane. There’s a plonking guitar that sounds like its leaking notes at random throughout the whole thing. As the chorus builds, its bedlam. Gord’s voice has an edge clearly channeling his manic on-stage antics: I can see his limbs flashing about, his contorted face, and his tossing the mic stand around.

    There’s injections of spoken word, a thunderous breakdown, and as the second half comes down the two guitars are joined by a third which is throwing flourishes hither and thither. Gord’s voice only gets louder, more frantic, he’s screaming these verses, right up until his voice nearly breaks.

    Lyrically, and in the liner notes’ artwork, this song is built as a conversation. I’ve scanned the booklet pages for end image since I think it’s interesting – This might be the only album where the liner notes are used to enhance the song. If you scrolled down you’ll see…

    … a similarly constructed song, mirroring “Kids.” Sonically, that is the case – This one is down-tempo, rippling piano, Gord’s as soft as ever at the beginning, and appears to be the perspective opposite the previous bombastic piece. I hated this one even more than the last one.

    The previous song was filled with strange imagery, of squids and elk, but in comparison this sounds like saying “pretend” for two minutes. Not a huge fan, but I don’t write it off as I once did. I dislike the “yes I can” repetition a lot. The instruments are all bunched together at the end and its not great, very messy.

    The title of this song makes me think I’ll hate it. But the first thing we hear is a spooky refrain:

    “You kissed my fingers and made me love you”

    It’s fantastic, though the song abandons the spookiness to move into a more traditional sound and structure but returns to this line in the same way a few times. Gord keeps things odd with some sinister words:

    “Last night when we went to hell
    When the blood-starred curtain fell
    Men were turning on their machines, making everything mean
    Fires burned, cold values clashed
    Good and evil were all dry grass
    No child-ghost, no singing bird, no last laugh, no last word”

    Dreamlike. As I’m going through this I’m getting the impression this song is about a man stuck out in the cold, suffering hypothermia and what’s kissing his fingers is frostbite – Symbolic of this traumatic break-up. I know Gord is human like the rest of us, but I find this a pedestrian metaphor for him, even if its well executed musically.

    Ooooooooh baby! This feels like a straight-up callback to the early 90s albums with the intro guitar (It sounds exactly like a sped-up “New Orleans is Sinking”), but as the whammy’d second guitar comes in you know you’re up for an re-invention. I love how you can hear the drumsticks clacking. Combine that with a psychotic Gord flying off the handle. The lyrics are flying out of his mouth as though he’s not speaking them, they’re demons escaping some prison. He’s using a high pitch that could be a crone from a horror movie. He’s a joy to sing alone with.

    This track is dirty and murky, like opening your eyes underwater while swimming in a lake – It’s just brown or green and your vision can only take you a few feet ahead. The sandy bottom, if you can reach it, will jump out at you.

    “The fates are amok and spun, measured and out and the past is meant to please us
    Yer a comet from earth in a Kiss Alive shirt
    Saying "Holy Fuck it's Jesus," the surface is green and the dark interweaves in a lonely iridescence
    It's terribly deep and the cold is complete and it only lacks your presence and nothing else”

    This is what I’ve been looking for this whole album. It’s my only fix, sadly. By far the best song.

    You can likely guess how this one goes from the title. It’s good! It feels very tame after the lunacy of “The Drop Off,” but we had to surface at some point. Too bad its sooner rather than later. Still, its not a bad song. It’s peppy, fun, and I adore the middle two stanzas:

    “One day I'll make some honest rock n roll
    Full of hand claps and gang vocals
    I'm gonna get all the children involved
    We're gonna get lost on all you locals
    We'll be a shade shy of true wickedness
    We'll be a shade shy of truly loving this
    There are other things we'll rather be doing
    Sure, even nothing, even nothing with you

    We'll load out through the snow
    Through small groups of people smoking
    Hey! Get that kick drum loaded!
    Into the backseat folded down!
    We'll go virtually unnoticed
    What's gripping the city ain't hitting the town
    We'll be a shade shy of true wickedness
    We'll be a shade shy of truly loving it”

    Gord should be able to paint this scene since no doubt he and the boys lived this exactly. Great stuff. The first two verses talk about a guy being a bit dumb, and the later verses are him saying he’s going to start a band. It seems like his venture is likely to fail, but god damnit they’re going to have fun all the same.

    A piano ballad. Yep. It’s not my favourite but it works. The drums on this track boom throughout. This feels like a grand finale, as though this isn’t ending the album, it’s ending the band. If this was the last song they ever recorded, I would consider it a great send-off. It isn’t, but still. Everybody gets onto this track and it feels like when a band will introduce the players at the end or beginning, with each one doing a little riff as their name is called out. It’s not quite on-the-nose as that, but that's the vibe.

    So, World Container. No doubt about it, it’s grown on me. Once I found it to be the deal-breaker, but on further inspection I found it to be In Between Evolution but smoothed out. IBE had massive highs and awful lows, this one was solid right through with little variation. I’m pleasantly surprised.

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    With all that said, wait patiently while I find the time to bang out the thirteenth installment.
    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

  6. #26
    Information comes from the album liner notes, Wikipedia, Google, and special mention goes to hipmuseum dot com. All errata are entirely mine alone. Also, this format’s pale imitation was consciously and unconsciously stolen from mrmustard615 and Trollheart.

    It's 2009 and I'm not paying attention, Bob.

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    Arguably the Tragically Hip were taken outside their comfort zone by Bob Rock on the polished World Container. I've seen suggestion that it was as good as it was in spite of a meddling Rock. I suspect some combination of the two. With Rock's fiddling and production, the band were indeed looking into new arrangements and sounds, but we're able to largely resist any excessive commercialization of a renowned hit-maker. After all, their sound has never been inaccessible.

    We are the Same is the second record with Bob at the controls and it gives the impression that he got his way this time. For one, this group could be renamed "Gord Downie and his Tragically Hip band". The boys are also joined in the studio by a harem of backing singers (on the songs where God's voice isn't simply overdubbed on itself), a 14-piece string group, pianos, all of which supplant the typical rock band setup.

    If I had to give a word to describe this album: Starbucks. The first half in particular, though enjoyable, feels like it was meant to ooze onto fashionable folk on their laptops. We are the Same sold decently, and did debut at #1 on the Canadian charts, but I barely remember the release. The Fully & Completely podcast brought to my attention the order of the singles off this album. While in the recording it's clear they were going mostly for a country-folk campfire song vibe, the first single they released was "Love is a Curse." It's an oddball rock track, with awkward spoken sections. It appears they were trying to emulate the live rants, but it does not work at all. I like them, but nothing about them seems spontaneous. How could they? The magic of the rants is you never know where they'll appear, what they'll be about, etc. They're baked into the song. And Live Between Us this ain't.

    The second single was another rocker, and one of the worst on the album, "Speed River." I'd never even heard this before spinning the album. And finally, they release a song that actually speaks to the albums focus and was radio friendly, "Morning Moon." It seems like marketing was trying to sell a rock album, but the band was making a country album. In short, the release seems grossly mishandled.

    None of this affected me at the time. By 2009 I had become a fully fledged music fanatic and I was digging through the back catalogs of all the obscure bands, louder, noisier, and weirder than anything the Hip could provide. A radio-friendly album would not suffice while in an open BDSM relationship with my ears involving Big Black, Jesus Lizard, and Killdozer to name a few.

    From the first verse I notice something is different. It isn’t the lovely folk sound, poppier and showier than usual. It isn’t the backing vocals, though those too are atypical with unusual computerized warble. What strikes me first is the plainness of the lyrics crooned by Gord. The simplicity works in this track, but the Hip’s verbose words are part of the draw for me. This song feels full, with acoustic and steel guitar, ample backing vocals all melding into a nice track. Tame, but decent.

    Piano heavy, with humungous drums, and more acoustic strings plinking in the background. This is faster, and as the first verse ends we get electric guitars swinging in and sticking around until the end to make this a nice, easy rock song. This is a gorgeous, understated song. Lyrics stay simple and they work. It’s just a nice expression of love.

    “Whenever I get lost
    Whenever I feel weak
    Whenever or just because
    You whisper it to me”

    Gord gets to unleash a little after the reserved first track, going falsetto and surging in its familiar way. The whole outro has a falsetto guitar solo which I find pretty and tasteful.

    Another cute song, this time describing a cold breakup. One character seems to be leaving while the other asks why they’re being so dramatic about it.

    “We rode hard for the boat, hard as we could
    ‘No tears’, you said, ‘understood?’
    I said, ‘Awright’”

    In the middle there’s a huge backing vocal overpowering everything. It sounds a bit Disney. Once again the song has instruments added until the end is a mass of sounds. This one is okay. I find the “oo” sounds that Gord holds every chorus a tad annoying.

    Starbucks, man. This song depicts a baristo coming in to work and finding one of his regular customers upon whom he is crushing has entered with her beau. Big drums return. Twanging returns.

    “It was perfect 'til
    He came along and wrecked it”

    Meh. I like the concept, but the song is lame. Musically its similar to "Morning Moon." Its sweet and lovely. The chorus, of course, gets huge. We get a trumpet solo in the middle that I enjoy, a simple noodley couple phrases. So far it feels like every song wants to be two things – A little acoustic number, but also a big showy epic. Despite all that, I enjoy the song.

    In Canada the First Nations people have it rough. There are reservations in the North without plumbing, running water, schools, and other essentials. Out in BC there is what has been called an “epidemic” of missing indigenous women who tend be found dead months or years later. As such, there are a large number of advocates who believe these issues require immediate governmental attention. Gord Downie is one of those people and while he’s feathered across those topics on other albums, here we get it addressed about as bluntly as we can expect from poetical Gord.
    This song, given its subject matter, acts like a black spot on the album. I wonder if that was the intent, considering it could be seen as a black spot marring the beautiful, bountiful country in which these things are happening.

    “Oh, Honey Watson
    We were born with sin
    Some truth, some reconciliation
    And gone with the wind”

    The Truth & Reconciliation Commission is a group “with the purpose of documenting the history and lasting impacts of the Canadian Indian residential school system on Indigenous.” As in many colonized nations the European settlers took it upon themselves to raise and re-educate the native inhabitants. In Canada, that system of re-education was called the residential school. The last of these schools closed in 1996. If this topic interests you, here’s la wik.

    If I’m being completely honest, I think this song beautifully captures the feeling, the sadness of this topic, but it does not broach it intellectually or candidly. It’s repetitive and vague. I do find one line fairly savage:

    “Now, the apology done
    Applause can begin”

    The album title is also sung which seems odd considering this topic is never touched on again. Were the band concerned with these things but hampered by production? Could we have had a more socially aware or heart-felt album? I can only speculate.

    Gord provides his own backing vocals which sounds awkward. Aquatic guitar, booming choruses once again, and we get hit with the strings which sound flat. Sometimes I skip this one.

    The Rock
    The first of a three-part suite unique in the Hip discography, unless you count that two-fer on World Container. Annoyingly the CD doesn’t split these up into tracks. This one starts much the same as everything else so far, but we immediately get more personal lyrics from Gord. Finally, I’ve been waiting. We also get some nice hooks on the chorus that I adore. This section seems to paint the image of a depressed person who is merely hearing the world outside as it rushes past.

    “Under the pillow
    I bury my head and try and shut Chicago out
    As it turns out, there's a whole other world of sounds
    Of perfect fifths, low skids, and Arctic howls

    All saying, are you going through something?
    Are you going through something?

    Under the pillow, a little room to breathe
    The early morning light's a pale cranberry
    I hear the Aah-aah-aah, not now-wow-wow
    Of a siren far away and closing steadily

    Saying, are you going through something?
    Are you going through something?
    Cause I.. I.. I am too”

    While we’re delving into the mind of someone in a bad situation, he song retains an optimistic tone. This is not unexpected since the Hip have an unerring optimist streak – In nearly every album there are affirmations of life and love and that “they’re exquisite.”

    New Orleans World
    Part two switches quickly from a slower, wistful sound to a peppy one (Though I wouldn’t call it overjoyed.) We seem to have a character whose outlook is changing. The opening lines are my absolute favourite moment on the album. There’s something that stirs and satisfies my soul by Gord’s vocal moguls and the luscious strings bouncing in time. All he says is “Gimme-gimme-gimme” but ITS. SO. GOOD.

    Our protagonist wants to be “put […] in the saddle,” he has work to do and can’t “lounge online.”

    Don’t You Wanna See How It Ends?
    This song stays slow, but we get a banging guitar to make this a real rock song. The strings are still humming in behind and Gord is letting loose. The end of the song sees a tight little solo. It’s big, but it feels like it should be. The doors are opening, the light is visible, and things are gonna get better. This entire suite is the highlight of the album, with middle section being the best of it.

    The second half of the album goes rock full-time. We start with a decent number that I find most notable for a guitar that sounds like a didgeridoo. I’m lovin’ it. Apart from that, this is pleasant. We get a callback to a line from “Honey, Please.” Nothing much of note otherwise.

    This is weird one. It starts with a Caribbean rhythm, then blends country & rock. On top of that it’s written like a corny musical where they narrate the thing they’re doing:

    “You are my heart, oh my Queen of the Furrows
    This is how I farm, eyes up and ears down low
    You are my heart, you're my Queen of the Furrows
    This how I feel, hens cluck and roosters crow”

    “This is how we farm” always make me laugh. I see a line of actors on the stage hoeing and sowing in time with the beat. But the chorus is bad ass! Even when he says “This is how we farm” like he’s giving the Man the middle finger. AND THEN there’s a face-melter guitar solo! This song is unmitigated fun.

    A track inspired by the band’s 90s bar-band sound. It’s toothless. I do love this Mel Brooks-y line:

    “Hard stuff.
    Give me a dose of the hard stuff.
    Okay, enough.
    Okay, enough of the hard stuff.”

    This song mimes the themes of “Leave” off In Violet Light but done less amazingly. The lyrics are barely existent. Decent solo at the end, but not something they’ve ever played before. I think I hear Johnny Fay for the first time during a lull where I think he’s playing nice rhythmic rim shots.

    At this point in the album, I’m thinking “is this going to end?” Nope, we’ve still got 3 meaty tracks. I often turn the album off because it doesn’t feel worth going on.

    The song starts out as “Undone” by Weezer. Then you get guitar crunches from Radiohead’s “Creep.” Then you get big rock “Woah-woahs.” The verses sound a little “Say It Ain’t So.” Why, guys? Why? SKIP.

    Basically, a B-side from World Container. Not terrible. Big rock thing. As mentioned in the intro there are some ill-conceived "rants" here. I still like the segments since they are unique on the album and they sound cool and creepy.

    Fuck this song.

    Okay, maybe don’t. It’s competent. And if you made it this far you might as well complete your hour-long journey.

    Gord tries his Tom Waits impression. I quite like it! It’s incredibly left-field for the Hip. And a dirty filthy no-good rotten scoundrel of a guitar cuts in after a couple stanzas that is bluesy as all get out. A short, awesome song. Listen here.

    Space-age intro with an oscilloscope soundscape, a nice drum sliding into place, then the twanging guitar, then acoustic, and finally Gord’s voice over top of it all. I don’t know what doofus cut this. It feels more classic Hip, but I also catch a big whiff of Interpol. Reverse guitar snippet in there, nice loud-quiet-loud thing going on. The only version of this song I found at hipmuseum and it’s a rough cut, but still sounds great.

    The album itself is a big fat meh with some nice selections. I’ve used and abused all the middling and slightly condescending adjectives here: Nice. Lovely. Pleasant. Enjoyable. Decent.
    Spotify, Starbucks, and YouTube are the way to listen to this one because it’s a slog. I wouldn’t call it bad, but it is their worst album to date without reservation.

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    With all that said, wait patiently while I find the time to bang out the fourteenth installment.
    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

  7. #27
    Information comes from the album liner notes, Wikipedia, Google, and special mention goes to hipmuseum dot com. All errata are entirely mine alone. Also, this format’s pale imitation was consciously and unconsciously stolen from mrmustard615 and Trollheart.


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    Now for Plan A is an album that I was unaware of. I’d seen the cover in record stores, but I’d never heard a single track nor did I even know the Hip were still recording. By this year I was going down so many musical rabbit holes I missed it completely. I wanted to push boundaries, find diamonds, and travel back through the decades to genres that were as eccentric as possible. Again, the Hip didn’t feed that need. Little did I know that Bob Rock was out and something special was waiting for me to uncover.

    Between 2009 and 2012 Gord’s wife was diagnosed with cancer and with the family stricken, the album was delayed. Thankfully, she can now count herself among survivors. The doom hanging over her and her kin is all over this album which seeps with the sorrow, “anger, fear, impatience (…) and love.” It's in the heart-breaking lyrics, which have emerged from the ashes of We are the Same and his malignant troubles with a force yet unseen; it’s in his straining voice; it’s in the lamenting, uplifting, and hateful guitars.

    Gord’s involvement with First Nations advocacy grew during this time and those topics are here as a bold and uncomfortable denoument in "Goodnight Attawapiskat." The song was inspired by trips he took to the titular First Nation.

    It’s a shame I missed this one. It was lauded critically, it was their highest charting album in the US (It peaked at #129 on the Billboard 200!), and I really enjoy it. It wouldn’t have satisfied me back in the day, but I’m glad I’ve taken the time to come back and dig in. Once I find a used copy, this one’s going in the collection.

    An obese bass line starts the show and as the grinding, winding guitars circle one another, I feel we’ve come somewhere ominously familiar. This might be the most unrestrained vocal performance by Gord I’ve heard. Maybe a bit too familiar, its still rocks hard and kicks you in the heart. The chorus especially rips me open. There are some guitar passages that sound like bagpipes, which I like. The flimsiness of WatS is completely blown away. This track seems to be a statement that the boys are in a different place and you’re going to hear about every nasty detail.

    “Gently breathing
    Lit by the morning sun
    Through the night
    It had been raining venom
    I don't want to be kind
    Not a bullet in the right place
    Or just of two minds
    More important than important

    I want to help you lift enormous things
    A pinch, a sting, I don't feel a thing
    As the Earth revolved around the sun”

    The song ends by dissolving into fuzz. An incredible track.

    Oh, my lord. Gord’s voice is ripping my heart to shreds on this one. It’s echoing as though calling out from some place in the beyond. Only three brief stanzas, each preceded by the band crescendoing as though propelling Gord into the sky to belt it out. This song is apparently Downie’s side of conversations had with his wife. The first reads like he’s the fearful husband assuaging his fears, or perhaps his courageous wife doing such, regarding the course of treatment:

    It works
    In monkeys
    You're right
    But it is a thin win”

    A final crescendo sees the song break and we’re left with what sounds like a beating heart playing us out. This song is one of a few in this world that I can barely listen to because they so utterly overwhelm me with emotion.

    Gord: “That you know everything's going to be all right, no matter what. And she's got it. She always had it, but it diminished at that moment a little bit. And you realize how much you need it. How much I rely on it. And she's got it back.”

    As such, this song is upbeat and starkly happy compared to the first two, featuring Sara Harmer. While Gord is looking for that “look ahead,” he is still filled with reservation and doubt. But in the trying times when so much is outside his control, it is no surprise that Gord maintains the positivity. It’s written into every album before and it’s beautiful that he lives as he creates.

    “I go back to the brusque nurse
    Her heart a bad cake in a melting box
    I thought you should know, it's no worse
    Her blood is still clear and sanguineous”

    The video features an artsy mariachi-backed sketch with Gord in a sombrero. I thought it worth mentioning. Great song. We’ve got an amazing start.

    I don’t think I can handle this one either.

    “Drip, drip, drip
    Baby, when'd you get so Zen?
    Drip, drip
    When I used to know you when
    Drip, drip
    When you thought all my dreams sucked
    Drip, drip
    I was just happy you gave a fuck
    Drip, drip

    And we don't want to do it
    Drip, drip, drip
    We want to be it
    Drip, drip, drip”

    Even knowing they made it through all this doesn’t alleviate the beating this song gives me. The “drip drip drips” are savage, cutting through the softer, slower acoustic backing which seems content to let Gord yell.

    This song sees Gord watching his wife with an IV, a motif that has already appeared in several places. She’s spaced out, she’s weakening, she’s losing weight, she’s lethargic, she’s in pain – And yet:

    “Drip, drip, drip
    Baby, when'd you get so wrecked?
    Drip, drip
    And where are things at this moment?
    Drip, drip
    And all our friends gave us a week
    Drip, drip
    And we're still happening as we speak
    Drip, drip”

    Muddy, bass-heavy sound that bounds forward into a sweeping chorus. The song rushes you forward which seems to be the point.

    “You were streets ahead, I couldn't sleep a wink
    Staring in the dark, by the light of your skin
    At myself sitting, on a suitcase
    Or as the sleeping youth, in the upset sleigh

    They don't wait
    They won't wait
    They run with the weather
    They don't wait”

    Good song, but after the rollercoaster of the past few tracks this feels flat.

    The title track is slower than anything before. Sadness drips from the sweet acoustic strumming, with barely perceptible strands of washed out, distorted guitars in the background. The title is haunting – There’s no backup here: either the treatment works, or the worst comes to pass. Sara Harmer joins in again and she’s a perfect choice.

    The simplicity here works great and you get a sad, pretty track.

    “Yeah, I know, I know, I know
    Now for Plan A
    I'll stay till the wisteria fades
    And falls on L.A.
    No matter how high or how rough
    Nothing short of everything's enough”

    Intro sounds like “Thompson Girl” off Phantom Power. A cute rocker. The outro sounds like a Disney cartoon song:

    “Can't you just hear it, hear it, hear it?
    Winter counting everything, we're near it
    We're getting nearer, nearer, nearer
    Friendship changing everything, we're near it
    I can hear it”

    I’m not sure what the modern spirit is.

    What it says on the tin – An analogy of a map. Considering the topics at hand, the map most apparent to me is the path through one’s life, and the map of a cancer treatment plan. Looking forward, and looking backward. But the map only goes so far:

    “About this map, it's a bit out of date, yeah
    Territories shifted, and things get renamed
    There's coups, revolutions, and boundaries blur
    Volcanoes and earthquakes turn words into birds

    It's certain, certain
    You want to, want to
    Certain, certain
    You want to, want to, want to

    But, oh, about this map
    It goes beyond, beyond
    And, oh about this map
    About this map”

    I like the song lyrically, but its bland musically.

    I thought this was Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” at first. Other than that, the song doesn’t make much impression on me.

    Gord’s always used repetition to dramatic effect. This one doesn’t work for me on that front, feeling slow and overlong even at 2:52.

    Eerie into and the band busts in in classic style. There’s an ominous sound though, and knowing Attawapiskat is a northern First Nations village, I know what’s in store.

    The verses are spoken by “Silver Poets” on a stage, in their “thousand mile suits.” I read somewhere that silver poets are politicians and any others who orate down from a position of privilege, and who whisk into and out of a city.

    Attawapiskat is a First Nation on James Bay. It is small, remote, and exemplifies the existence faced by First Nations around the country. It is accessible by helicopter and ice roads. They subsist on fishing and hunting, and though they sit upon diamond resources, they don’t see much of the diamonds nor their proceeds. Finally, they’re plagued by under-funding, both from a Federal perspective and due to grift from crooked chiefs and administrators. Its no surprise homes and facilities are often unfit for habitation, the water needs to be boiled, and feral dogs invade on occasion.

    In more recent news, though its something that has long history, First Nations like Attawapiskat also suffer from rashes of suicide attempts, so many that the hospitals are overwhelmed. In a nation around 1500, 5% attempted suicide between September 2015 and April 2016.

    From hipmuseum dot com:

    “He told the CBC that he was amused by the idea of a rock and roll front man confusing the town he was performing in for the northern Canadian community. The town that is always forgotten has somehow, to this fictional singer, become the town he can never forget. Downie speculated that he'd like to end every Hip show by screaming ‘Goodnight Attawapiskat!’”

    “Hello! Good evening, folks
    We are the Silver Poets
    Here in our thousand mile suits
    We're here to get paid
    We know nobody ever who got laid
    Telling people what to do”

    This record is incredible and a fantastic return to form. I don’t regret missing it because its themes and subject matter would not have touched me the way it does today. It’s fantastic. It’s gut-punching. It’s so much better than I ever thought possible.

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    With all that said, wait patiently while I find the time to bang out the fifteenth and final installment.
    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

  8. #28
    Information comes from the album liner notes, Wikipedia, Google, and special mention goes to hipmuseum dot com. All errata are entirely mine alone. Also, this format’s pale imitation was consciously and unconsciously stolen from mrmustard615 and Trollheart.

    From 1986 to 2016.

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    Welcome to an extra special, celebratory rum-soaked edition of a Bad History of the Tragically Hip. Rest assured that all writing and revision were completed with a healthy buzz on. I really didn’t think I’d get this far, so yay for sticking with it!

    Here we are: Man Machine Poem, the latest release from the inimitable Tragically Hip. It’s been 30 years of music by this point and apart from a couple of minor detours, they’ve turned out excellent record after excellent record. They are a Canadian institution – They’re known and adored by their fans, non-fans can unwittingly sing along to the hits with ease, and the detractors will never be free of them.

    Man Machine Poem was produced by Kevin Drew (of Broken Social Scene) and Dave Hamelin (of the Stills) and is obviously named after a track on the last album. The original title was Dougie Stardust, but was changed last minute after David Bowie passed away in January 2016.

    I only realised this album existed that year when I happened to see it in a checkout stand at Wal-Mart. Still having not heard anything since We are the Same, I passed it by. Was it yet another mistake?

    This album dropped in June, soon after a startling May revelation that shocked the entire nation: Gord Downie had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, brain cancer, in December of 2015, and was undergoing treatment. While this record was made well before that diagnosis, one can’t help but transpose the aching lyrics about his wife onto what Gord himself would soon be undergoing.

    Unexpectedly we get a speech sample distorted into alien freakery to start the show. Highly unusual for the Hip. I’d call it experimental, but they only do it once on the album, and other than creating a spooky introduction, it doesn’t do much for me.

    The music plops in nicely and wanders forward with a typical Hip saunter, but furthering the disappointment, the very first vocal notes of the song are… well, bad. Intentionally so, I think, but that doesn’t make them more entertaining. I do like that the very first lines (“I/You’re a real machine.”) are ones which we’ll revisit later.

    Droning, ambient guitar drops in around half-way and the song picks up a little. It’s as though the album is coalescing from chaos into structure. We get a synth (I think?) interlude which comes and goes quickly, but which totally solidifies the whole piece. I come into this song disliking it, and I leave impressed. An odd experience.

    We return to classic Hip sound and composition, plain and clear-cut. The very first words are so perfectly ominous:

    “Just gimme the news”

    Never a good combination of those words. And followed by “It can all be lies” tells of awfulness. The song is dark and terrifying. I love the whole sound. The drums beat like a heart and the guitar tinkles in and out. The song is focused on Gord’s voice which totally sells it. This song lives on Gord’s cadence, it brings a world of feeling to the track that is mysterious and intuitively wonderful.

    I’m reminded very vividly of Arcade Fire’s Funeral all the way to the end. The drums, the brooding, everything.

    Another stellar performance by Gord and hinging upon the way he rattles off the words and holds on certain syllables. He seems to have this skill to do so in such a way as to produce an off-beat musicality. Sometimes there’s too many beats, sometimes too few, but I think the balance makes it magical. I feel a tremendous anticipation for the titular refrain, I always want to jump to it in singing along.

    While the music in the first two songs felt a tad unremarkable, here it plays off his voice perfectly. Lots of crunchy guitar. And the first half has a tension, as though the guitar wants to unleash and finally it gets to fuzzily sing off into and canyon still echoing with Gord.

    “I love you so much it distorts my life
    What drove and drives you drove and drives me too
    When I think I’m clear, I think I’m doing fine, completely absorbed in what blue”

    To me, he’s hopelessly wrapped up looking into her eyes, always happily returning to her overwhelming beautiful love. Fabulous song. Makes me cry.

    Not crazy about this one. I find the instrumentation bland. Gord is out there on this one. It’s like he’s trying sing a John Coltrane sax improv. I am immediately compelled to press >>.

    Squonky guitar climax, then things plonk off to the end.

    The first few drum notes betray the future of this song. Fay gives a quick little flourish, then settles into a casual beat. Within 30 seconds, Gord chimes in with the first couple lines and the song takes off running. Love the way it builds and then launches into the chorus, as though Gord can barely contain the lyrics trying to leap ahead of him. Everything feels messy and rushed, but it works. Delightful.

    More droning, this time like radio static behind a very casual jam session. Honestly, it got me thinking Tool! Which is cool! I like the experience of this song. Like “Man,” it has an overall sensation that I really get into, even if lyrically it doesn’t blow me away. It’s anxious and fearful and ends with “Nothing works and I’m out of ideas.” It doesn’t feel like a downer, but boy, it sure sings like one.

    Often attributed to Gord given his recent diagnosis, but again, this was written before his treatments. Seeing his wife weakened by that experience and being a relative in and out of the hospital nigh daily will do that to you. The drum sound is loud, and the watery guitar sounds fresh even if it’s a Hip staple.

    I like this song for that frank statement. The Hip has uses cusses in their works before, but this one sticks with me.

    Damn, this one pounds in like you oughta take notice. Fay’s front and center here setting a pace of doom.
    This is the first errant lyrical track. My attraction to music sees me searching for the weird and off-the-wall. I like songs about little things, big things, newsy things, all sorts of weird stuff. This is a great addition to that addiction.

    “I am the hot mic, I pick up asides, of the modern tyrant
    ‘…laws of the shadows, colours of justice’,”

    More doominess, more ambience. They’re wearing this left-turn on both sleeves. I’m beginning to think this is hardly a Hip album at all. If I were a busier music nerd, I would compare it to something familiar.

    I love that you can hear Fay’s sticks clatter as he stops drumming.

    Another take on quasi-ambient, or possibly a smidge of shoegaze-iness? Gord has a fizzled and computer-distorted voice that seems to emphasize the sound of the vowels above the lyrical content, though even that is dream-like. Minimal instrumentation. Love this unusual take.

    “Ocean next, ‘the thousand pictures'
    Better than sex or salt n vinegar chips”

    MAJOR Modest Mouse vibes here.

    We finish where we began, with “I/You’re a real machine,” but this time the song is not uncertain of amorphous, it is crystal clear and classically constructed. Huge guitars, huge drums, big backing vocals. The final chorus has a mechanical guitar whine that trades jibes with Downie.

    The take-away here is this album is friggin great. Leave it to the Hip to deliver a new sound that prioritizes the music and the eyes-closed pleasure of sound over the decades heavy focus on lyricism, though its still there if you care to read it. I don’t even find it necessary. Awesome. As with the last, when I find a used copy, it's taking a well-deserved place in my collection.

    With all that said, wait patiently while I find the time to bang out the...

    Well that's it. Holy cow. According to Word, which contains most of this thread, I've banged out at least 20,000 words. What a wholly unexpected turnout.

    A huge thank you to Trollheart and mrmustard615 for providing the inspiration to prattle about my favourite band. Your epic and ceaseless contributions to this board are amazing. Thanks!

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    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

  9. #29
    So, who's next?
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    And check out Gertie's blog on her favorite top twenty-five albums between 1955-2017 Hidden Content

  10. #30
    Actually, we're not quite done...

    In 2016 I was in Fredericton, New Brunswick road tripping the Maritimes, having never been out that easterly direction. Fredericton is the capital, but it’s a small city; Felt like you could walk its length in minutes. On the waterfront is a plaque which describes an incredible of fortitude: During the war of 1812 five-hundred fifty-four soldiers marched for 11 months through the winter and mountains from that little town to reinforce the city of Kingston. I was flabbergasted.

    In the downtown we ambled after dinner to a square where some vendors had their stalls set up. Typical local stuff, beaded tchotchkes, dreamcatchers, band t-shirts, baked goods, all that. Alongside them was a large white screen, huge black speakers, and a projector. That night, the Tragically Hip were playing their final shows, 11 months-march away in their hometown. That performance was to be broadcast from coast to coast on screens just like this, and on jumbotrons on the cities that could afford such things.

    The Hip are playing their last show from their last tour supporting their last album because earlier that year it was announced that Gord Downie has an inoperable brain tumor and the strain of playing was too much. I would learn in subsequent years and interviews that Gord’s memory was becoming so fragile that he sometimes forgot the names of his children. To make it through to the tour he would sing using six teleprompters since he could no longer remember the words which had penned over the last thirty years.

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    Being on vacation the news was sprinkled throughout our travels, coming up on the radio, TV news, and newspapers in between exploring the European streets of Québec City, the markets of Ottawa, and eventually the sleepy flat town of Fredericton. I think I was only dimly aware of the momentous things transpiring. We were seeing the sights, not contemplating the end of a musical era.

    We hung around until dark when the concert began. The speakers were cranked up so loud that even the decades-old hits sounded like blown-out sludge. We couldn’t even sing along so we walked back to the car and returned to the hotel. It may have been anti-climactic, but in seeing the artefacting shadows on the screen the end of the Tragically Hip dawned on me. Finally.

    That was August 20, 2016. October 17, 2017 Gord Downie passed away.

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    I was always that annoying guy who said “why so upset? You never knew the guy,” any time a celebrity died. Part of me still thinks “but my guy was special,” but I know it’s just foolishness. Gord was special, no doubt about it and he and the Hip brought an incalculable amount of good and beauty into the word in own their enigmatic way. Even as he faced the inevitable, the glory of life was present in him. He was thankful, thankful! that providence allowed him a forewarning of death so that he could make use of his time to spend with his family, his band, his art, and his activism.

    In combing through their catalogue, listening to songs I’ve heard a thousand times over, giving the post-World Container material a fresh and earnest listen, I think I’ve come to appreciate these guys even more, and more still than I ever thought possible. In the course of research I found all sorts of articulate (and not) articles, opinions, comments, and reviews expressing admiration and appreciation parallel to my own.

    When you love someone, you cannot imagine a world or a life without them. Just so with The Tragically Hip and our bud Gord Downie.

    * * *

    Gordon Edgar Downie was 53. He is survived by his four children and his wife, Laura (separated).

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    I sprayed spot remover on my dog and now he's gone. - S. Wright.

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