[Music] We Are the Same – The Tragically Hip (2009)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

What can be said about the Tragically Hip’s 11th album, We Are the Same, except I was a complete stranger to it before this week. In 2009 when this album was released, I was hardly listening to my music collection. We are very close to the time when Kevin and I packed away our CDs in a large rubbermaid container to make room for our growing video game collection. Now, before every music fan here hyperventilates…worry not, the music collection is now prominently displayed in our home now – where it should be! But, I was only listening to satellite radio and not taking in any new music. The Hip, sadly, was wayyy off my radar. Any mention of them was in passing, and my thinking was, “yeah, I’ll get to them when I have a sec…” But, as any adult knows, time is an avenger…

If I had been paying any attention, and had just bought We Are the Same on a whim when it was first released, I think it would have become my next obsessive listen. It is a high calibre production similar to the Hip’s previous album, World Container. Bob Rock produced this one, and like the last album, there are no rough edges. The songs are enjoyable, and set a perfect vibe that you don’t mind reliving. Gord Downie is at his best here: his voice is so clear and the harmonies are incredibly good.

We Are the Same plays with different rock formats, and attempts to strike a balance between them. We have the Hip rock we’re familiar with (The Exact Feeling), gentle rock tunes (Honey, Please, The Last Recluse, Coffee Girl, The Depression Suite), hard rock bruisers (Frozen In Your Tracks, Love Is a First), and the soundalikes (Speed River; starting out like the Summer of 69; the talky bits in Love Is a First harkens back to In Pursuit of Happiness’s I’m An Adult Now). The above said, there isn’t anything overtly different about We Are the Same that hasn’t been done by the Hip before aside from the number of epic ballads (Now the Struggle Has a Name, Queen of the Furrows, and Country Day). Hey, ballads can be pretty excellent, and for the most part, they’re good here…but, some take it to extremes: when you start with an acoustic guitar-led tune and end with violins, horns and banjos like we see in Country Day, it can sound less like the Hip and more like Sargeant Pepper’s.

Bar none – the best tune of We Are the Same is the first track, Morning Moon. It starts this album off with an acoustic twang of a guitar, and develops into this great tune that could easily be inducted into the pantheon of great rock tracks.There are some of the most beautiful harmonies I have ever heard from the Hip, ever here. This. This is a pretty damn perfect song.

Overall, I like this album a lot; a nice balance of songs, great singing and catchy tunes. I’m just sorry I waited this long to engage with it! It’s a 4.5/5 for me.

We Are the Same
The Tragically Hip
2009

Thanks for reading! Now go check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] World Container – The Tragically Hip (2006)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

We are up to the Tragically Hip’s 10th studio album! I mentioned in a past post that once I reached In Between Evolution, that all subsequent Hip albums were strangers to me. That’s actually not fully true…Listening to World Container this week, I found I was more familiar with this album than I thought. I have discovered one thing though: my connection with this album is from a false memory. Here I thought I had a *cough* preservation copy that I obtained in 2005 when I was still living in Barrie, Ontario. Obviously, that turned out not to be true since this album was released in 2006…I’m off by a year. Yes, it was a preservation copy, but obtained later on when I had already moved down Toronto way. Thanks to the “new technology” that was the ability of burning content to CDs, I was able to have a copy of World Container in the car with me as I made the hour trek up Hwy 400 to the hospital in Barrie where I worked. That’s a lotta listening time in the car! I’ll reset my memory bank eventually…The good news is that World Container is a winner album. I know…I’m sounding like Aaron from the KMA with most of these album reviews, but, truthfully, I cannot give this one a negative.

Bob Rock produced World Container, and there is something reigned-in, focused and clean about it. We hear less bar-room rock and less experimental sounds this round; more radio-friendly power balads paired with mature piano-driven tunes. The album is a respectable 42 minutes long, and only 11 tracks – actually shorter than the average 14 track-album we’ve seen the Hip put out, which makes this quite a digestable record.

The first three songs on World Container were released as singles. Yer Not the Ocean starts the album with a nice rock intro turned acoustic, whiplashing the listener back into the rock; a nice start to the album. The Lonely End of the Rink follows, with a pronounced U2 guitar and drums permeate the track; I think that might be why I really like it. In View is a rather poppy tune that mixes a giddy xylophone with the Hip’s delicious guitar arrangement. It’s almost too perfect for the Hip to be involved with it…I challenge anyone not to tap their toe to this catchy track; it’s perfect.

Fly, the fourth song, hones in on the Hip’s easy road trip rock style; a perfect juxtaposition of guitar sound and Downie’s singing. I’m actually wondering why this one wasn’t made into a single? This is probably my favourite song on World Container.

Luv (sic) asks “Am I lovesick?” And that’s when we get the double entendre of the title. Some great reverb can be heard to partner with the desperation of Gord Downie’s question. It also has a great trailing guitar at its end that hints Neil Young.

Tracks The Kids Don’t Get It and Pretend play off each other lyrically, but from opposing aesthetics: both asking the initial query: “if I ask you a question”…The former acts as moody teenager in its hard rock styling and theme of truths, playing off Pretend‘s more mature and restrained piano-driven arrangement, and its own opposing theme of “make-believe.”

Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me is a more upbeat and catchy rock tune despite its title and sad subject matter.

The Drop Off has a familiar sound from the Hip’s earlier days that is as close to the old bar rock as this album gets (think Up to Here), only Gord Downie sounds more angsty and strained here. I can see why: the song tells the tale of summertime, teen relationships, and a lesson that can come from living life: “ya don’t go swimming past the drop off, or else…” There’s also an f-bomb and a Kiss Alive t-shirt in there for good measure…

Family Band is the fourth single from World Container, and is very ready for the radio in its style, but it wouldn’t be the Hip without adding some great lyrics for good measure. I can’t help but sing “small groups of people SMOKINNNNN'” loudly to this track, and then laugh.

The title track, World Container, rounds out the album, with a piano-led ballad, that starts light and ends heavy. Some great lyrics here too that reminds us to live life, and not to be held back by our mistakes.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I like World Container‘s album cover design; a real salve from In Between Evolution‘s terrible cover. So, great tracks, great cover design…What can I say? Overall, World Container is a great album. It’s an easy 5/5 from me!

World Container
The Tragically Hip
2006

Thanks for reading! Please check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Yer Favourites – The Tragically Hip (2005)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

Yer Favourites is a 2-CD greatest hits compilation by the Tragically Hip, released as a part of the Hipeponymous boxset, but was also sold as a separate package. Save for two bonus tracks, each song in this set was chosen by fans. The band had sent a call out on their website back in the day for fans to “submit yer favourites.” What can I say, I missed out on that call…then again I would have just been pulling songs from the Hip’s first five albums, and not the full 9 albums plus EP that Yer Favourites contains. There are a total of 35 familiar tunes, with two bonus tracks, and the distribution of songs chosen show which albums are most popular with fans:

The collection starts with a kickass bonus track called No Threat. This is a modern rock n’ roll tune; catchy and fresh. We are then lead down the Hip Memory Highway, starting with the familiar Grace, Too, and from there it’s a great 154 minute trip through the band’s catalogue thus far. The journey ends with another bonus song, called The New Maybe, a gentle acoustic guitar track.

The songs on this collection have been remastered and they do sound a little different to my ears. For some of them, there is a crispness; you can hear this particularly in the song Fiddler’s Green; Gord Downie’s countdown at its start is very clear, whereas I don’t recall it being so clear on the Road Apples album. Four songs got the remix treatment – Looking For a Place to Happen, Courage (For Hugh MacLennon), Fully Completely and At the Hundredth Meridian. A couple of them get a slight overhaul from their original, where guitar, bass or drums get a bump, becoming more prominent than heard before (Looking For a Place to Happen, Courage). The remix of At the Hundredth Meridian treats the guitar arrangement a bit differently from the original, and the backing vocals are much more prominent, but, I don’t mind it. Fully Completely is noticeably different: Its original had suffered a little from “echo-itis” with Gord sounding like he was singing in an empty warehouse with a tambourine. The remix tones that echo down considerably, and kicks Mr. Tambourine out. I like it! Now, should these remixes be on a compilation such as Yer Favourites? Traditionally, I get annoyed when bands put remixes on a greatest hits compilation: those are NOT the versions I am familiar with! BUT, strangely, I wasn’t irritated by the remixed songs here, and I found myself mostly nodding in agreement with the direction they went in the new cuts. So, your mileage may vary, but I’m fine with ’em here…this time.

I always knew Hip fans had great taste, and it shows in the tunes they chose for this compilation. Each song on Yer Favourites is like a “ooh! I love this song!” surprise, and I don’t think I would swap out a single song. Would I add any? I could easily name the rest of the tracks from Fully Completely, but that might be overkill, lol. Honestly, I’ve complained about the Hip not editing tracks, and this compilation’s setlist is excellent.

The greatest part of a fullsome package such as Yer Favourites is that everyone equally benefits: listeners new to the Tragically Hip who are looking for an intro to the band should buy this, and those who have been lifelong fans will have all their favourites in one set. Yer Favourites caters to both well. I recommend the investment; you won’t be disappointed!

5/5

Yer Favourites
The Tragically Hip
2005

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out Kevin’s take!

[DVD] That Night in Toronto – The Tragically Hip (2005)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

That Night in Toronto is a live concert DVD of the Tragically Hip’s performance during their In Between Evolution tour, November 2004 at the Air Canada Centre, in Toronto, Ontario. Directed by brothers Francois and Pierre Lamoureux this two-hour long concert is complete without edits; the spaces in time between songs and encores were kept as they happened that night. I watched this for the first time last night. As far as Hip concert DVDs go, this one was pretty good. At 5.1 Surround, this was a decent sounding concert. I could hope for a li’l Blu-Ray clean-up, but really the print wasn’t bad either.

The Hip performed 24 of their hits to a packed house that evening (18,000 people!). The band was tight and in their prime. Gord Downie was oh-so sweaty; par for the course. They had three encores, and some surprises in the set-list. Kevin and I had some fun trying to guess what songs they’d perform next. I said, “I’d like to hear Three Pistols, but I doubt I’ll hear it…” only to prove me wrong by performing it. It was special to me to see these guys in concert at that point in time (2004). I couldn’t help but think how many hits they had under their belt, and there were more to come.

The set-list itself features a range of songs spanning all their releases from Up to Here to In Between Evolution:

  1. Vaccination Scar”
  2. “Fully Completely”
  3. “Grace, Too”
  4. “Summer’s Killing Us”
  5. “Ahead by a Century”
  6. “Silver Jet”
  7. “As Makeshift as We Are”
  8. “Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)”
  9. “Bobcaygeon”
  10. “Nautical Disaster”
  11. “Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park”
  12. “Poets”
  13. “At the Hundredth Meridian”
  14. “It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night”
  15. “My Music at Work”
  16. “New Orleans is Sinking”
  17. “Heaven is a Better Place Today”
  18. “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken”
  19. “Little Bones”
  20. “Gift Shop”
  21. “Springtime in Vienna”
  22. “Three Pistols”
  23. “Boots or Hearts”
  24. “Blow at High Dough

I suppose if I were to critique anything… there were no extras on the DVD – just credits, a setlist, and an easter egg that led to three Hip concert posters. No interviews, no backstage action of the band, nothing. The liner booklet does include a partial contact sheet of teeny black and White candids of the band, but mostly backstage hallways and columns. What a missed opportunity.

Overall though, That Night in Toronto is pretty darn good. I’ll give it a 4/5. An enjoyable watch.

That Night in Toronto (DVD)
The Tragically Hip
2005

Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] In Between Evolution – The Tragically Hip (2004)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

In Between Evolution? Now we’re getting into stranger territory, people.

The next bunch of Tragically Hip studio albums are completely foreign to me, and are definitely fit for a fresh review as I have no point of reference… That said, In Between Evolution…ah…I don’t remember where or when I got the CD.

To start, let’s talk about judging a book by its cover. I dislike the album art of In Between Evolution…the shade of amber, the stylized drawings…I think this might be my least favourite album art design of the Hip’s. Thankfully, I am able to look beyond cover art as I found the album recording overall pretty satisfactory.

I popped In Between Evolution (IBE) in the player early this week and listened while doing some work. At first pass several of the songs sounded like other songs I heard before, or more like songs “a la [insert artist].” Heaven is a Better Place Today starts things off to a poppy rock start reminiscent of early R.E.M.with the guitar stylings of Tom Petty. Summer is Killing Us follows up next, reminding me a bit of Foo Fighters. Gus: the Polar Bear From Central Park with its deep guitar that trails off at the end reminds me of Neil Young. Now, when I say these remind me of other artists – not a negative! I happen to love R.E.M., Petty, the Foos and Neil. All good! I come to find out this album was produced by Adam Kasper, who has worked with *ahem* R.E.M., the Foos, among others that I like. We can see how some of the roots of these songs were set…

Vaccination Scar, the fourth song on IBE, is definitely the one song I recognize from somewhere (likely radio) and reminds me of Interpol (PDA, specifically). It’s one of my favourites from the album. There is some great singing guitar here that tells its own story.

It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night is the one song that comes close to the Hip standard – a great rock tune with a catchy “yea” in the chorus. And it starts with expletives; a great start to a song, I say!

If New Orleans is Beat is the quieter song on the album. It’s a lovely tune, followed by another lovely tune, that is fast becoming a favourite of mine, You’re Everywhere, its lyrics I interpret to be about the plight of adulthood and independence…and no matter how much we try to “never be our parents,” their ways always creeps in, don’t they?

As Makeshift As We Are, track 8 on the album, is the more generic radio rock song, but an enjoyable listen all the same.

IBE shows its need for better track omission with the next three weaker tracks – Mean Streak, the Heart of the Melt and One Night in Copenhagen. Now, I wouldn’t rate these as horrible…not at all. They’re just not as strong compared to the rest of the album, and definitely more forgettable. With a burgeoning 13 tracks to IBE, if ever they considered which to cut out, I’d remove these three.

We then hear some interesting footwork from Johnny on the bass drum in Are We Family, the second to last track, only to be rewarded with another classic rock Hip track in Goodnight Josephine, a decent closer.

Through reflection, the Tragically Hip’s album being called In Between Evolution may be a play on the band’s own emerging evolution; Hip songs evolving into other songs that sound like other familiar artists. I’m not sure, but I really enjoyed this experimentation (whether intended or not). I’ll have to see where the Hip end up in terms of style with their next album. But, as for In Between Evolution, I give it 3/5.

In Between Evolution
The Tragically Hip
2004

Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] In Violet Light – The Tragically Hip (2002)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

In Violet Light is an album I never picked up when it was released. I actually acquired my copy thanks to Aaron from KMA back in the Spring of 2015. Its arrival in the mail aligned with a solo trip I took to London, Ontario where I attended a conference at Kings University College, at Western University; it’s this trip where I got acquainted with it. The irony of listening to In Violet Light while touring the university whose signature colour is purple was not lost on me. After my trip, I planned to write a review of this album (I have a post in draft that is dated June 2015), but, I never got to it…until now.

It seems that the Tragically Hip hit the reset button with In Violet light. There is a musical freshness to this album that I haven’t seen since Day For Night, but they shed the grunge, darkness, and artistic interpretations for their known sensibilities: good ol’ rock, partnered with some quiet introspection.

The album gets off to a rocking start with songs Are You Ready, ‘Use It Up,’ and the catchy The Darkest One. The fourth track, the subdued and dignified ‘It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken’ is one of my favourite Hip songs of all time (the title is one of my favourite sayings, too). Silver Jet then kicks things up with lyrics only Gord Downie could write (it effectively uses the word “archepelago” in the song…how cool is that??). My least favourite song on the album follows: Throwing Off Glass; I think it might be the lyrics that make me dislike it…

My favourite song off In Violet Light follows my least favourite: All Tore-Up – a hyper-rock tune that uses some guitar stylings that remind me of bagpipes for some reason. Some great lyrics here too:

"...perhaps you think the road is a means to an end
when it's a living and the end
[...] play yer Tonight's-The-Nights right
and don't clear the place
sweep up a little on your way out
you might make it"

Songs Leave and A Beautiful Thing seem to have a similar Irish-pub style about them: I can envision seeing them performed live over some warm pints. The Dire Wolf and The Dark Canuck finish off the album with some good ol’ Hip rock: some great guitar play, and of course, Gord’s storytelling lyrics. For example, The Dire Wolf tells a tale of a perilous trip at sea off the coast of Newfoundland, running parallels with the movie Lifeboat (Tallulah Bankhead and Canada Lee get shout-outs).

They say that the colour purple soothes, relaxes and inspires creativity. If we look to In Violet Light as setting an inspiring tone, I would say it puts me in a good mood; mission accomplished, Hip! If you’re asking, I give it a 3.5/5.

In Violet Light
The Tragically Hip
2002

Thanks for reading! Now please read Kevin’s take!

[Music] Music @ Work – The Tragically Hip (2000)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

I bought the Tragically Hip’s Music @ Work shortly after release, but it would soon wind up being one of those albums that sat on the shelf for years. I might have listened to it a handful of times before digging into it for this review. Through reflection, I am pretty sure I know why.

Music @ Work showcases all of what the Hip are made of, encompassing their familiar bar room rock, with harder edged stylings, interspersed with some easy-listening rock for good measure. You can definitely hear past albums here: think Fully Completely meets Day For Night meets the good bits of Trouble at the Henhouse. There is something in store for any rock-lover’s taste here. The 14-track album is chock full of some pretty great songs. The secret is to listen beyond the second song…

The disconnect for me with this album is how the songs are tracked. The typical rock style of the catchy and contemplative first track My Music at Work is then turned on its ear with the experimental harder-edged Tiger the Lion, a take on Avant-Garde artist and composer, John Cage’s work*. I think this pairing is where I turned off to the album 20 years ago. Tiger the Lion harkens back to the darkness of Day For Night, and although I have since really grown to appreciate it, back then I think it didn’t hit the right vibe with me, and that is where I might have given up on the album.

One shouldn’t be so shallow as to allow one song to marr the enjoyment of the rest, but it did set a grunge tone that by Y2K was getting long in the teeth. It’s a shame since there are some great tunes down the line in Music @ Work, like the Bastard, the Completists, Freak Turbulence, Toronto #4, Sharks (a personal fave)

What if we tweaked the track arrangement of Music @ Work? This thought came together for me when I hit shuffle on my music app by accident one day, and the Completists (track 7 on the original recording) followed My Music at Work. I thought: “Hmm. Ah, yes! That’s better!

I decided to keep the random going…

The original track listing:
My Music at Work
Tiger the Lion
Lake Fever
Putting Down
Stay
The Bastard
The Completists
Freak Turbulence
Sharks
Toronto #4
Wild Mountain Honey
Train Overnight
The Bear
As I Wind Down the Pines
Sarca’s phone’s track listing:
My Music at Work
The Completists
Toronto #4
Tiger the Lion
Lake Fever
Sharks
The Bastard
Putting Down
Freak Turbulence
Wild Mountain Honey
Stay
Train Overnight
As I Wind Down the Pines
The Bear

Music @ Work seems arranged like that mix tape you made that time in 1989 at a friend’s house who had all this decent music, but you only had an hour to get it all dubbed onto tape and had no time to contemplate track arrangement. Seriously, how is it that my Samsung music app could figure out a better arrangement than human beings??

Anyway, please don’t let the track listing ruin your enjoyment of this album. The songs are good in their own right. Overall, I give this one a 3/5.

*By the way, I went on a wee rabbit hole looking up John Cage’s 4’33″…if you are not familiar with his aesthetic, take to YouTube, son!

Music @ Work
The Tragically Hip
2000

Thanks for reading! Please check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Phantom Power – The Tragically Hip (1998)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

The release of this album coincided with some stressful times in my life. I think many could identify with this one: trying to find gainful employment once they graduated college. Around this time, the workforce was dry. It took me over a year to find any job after a string of interviews. Finally, I landed a job working as an intern for an educational e-learning company supported by the provincial government’s Ministry of Education. Its directive was quite advanced for 1999: develop digital high school courses for the online learning environment.

From the outside, this job seemed like a real coup for anyone looking for work in interactive multimedia. I had the potential to use my artistic and computer skills. The office itself was a hip-looking joint: an old warehouse that had been converted to office space. Brick walls, open ceilings, and an open floor plan with desks. I was partnered with a mentor who would direct my days, and an office manager who lived right across the aisle from me. This would end up being the best job to learn about office culture, and the worst job I ever had. Think Office Space. Yes, I really did have 8 bosses, all of them never talked to each other about the final goal, which made for confusing directives. My desk was moved 4 times in six months. The interns were not managed equally, and favouritism was prevalent. Lastly, I had to sit through those highly critical performance appraisals at the end of every month. Ouch! They were not for the sensitive.

Meanwhile, the beacon of light during this time period was obtaining a copy of the Tragically Hip’s Phantom Power on CD. I would take the album to work and listen to it on my lunch break, since my Ford Escort didn’t have a CD player. This album got a lot of play at home, as well. Later on, Kevin made a copy of it on cassette so we could enjoy it in the car.

While I felt the Tragically Hip struck an unbalanced tone with their last studio album, Trouble in the Henhouse, they made up for it in Phantom Power. So many great singles from this album that have yet to grow old: Poets, Something On, Fireworks, Bobcaygeon, Escape Is At Hand For the Travellin’ Man (a personal favourite)… The album is a string of stories told that I am comfortable hearing again and again. They might not be steeped in history, but they are biographical, geographical, and identifiable; old friends’ conversations turned into songs. Like its warm yellow cover, the album was an inviting salve for the soul. Gord Downie’s voice was perfect, the harmonies are moving, the guitars emote feeling. Listening to Phantom Power would convince me that everything was going to be fine. Jobs will change, circumstances will change, but you will be fine, you’re good.

Today in retrospect, Phantom Power has been there: from travels up north, to commutes to work, to listening to it endlessly on the stereo, to mourning loss of loved ones, to the beach in Punta Cana. At several points in my life, the CD was a permanent fixture in my car, at my desk or in my bookbag. I think the reason for it is because it just sets the right mood, every time. The best description of this album comes from Gord’s lyrics from the third track, Save the Planet:

And it sounds hero-incredible
Sound that makes the headphones edible
Awake, affiliated and indelible

…and I believe this album will forever maintain its “phantom power” in my life.

5/5 (in case there was any doubt)

Phantom Power
The Tragically Hip
1998

P.S. I’ve written about my turrilble former employer in this post from 2018.

Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Live Between Us – The Tragically Hip (1997)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

In May 1997, I was about to embark on big life changes. I was graduating uni, and planning to make the big move to North Bay, Ontario to attend Canadore College to gain some practical skills in the Graphic Design program, and maybe eventually get a job in the field. All I really remember about this time musically is the weekly Spice Girls spotlight marathons on Much Music. I was in my own little world when it came to music, happily listening to RUSH, Tom Petty and the Crowes. By this time, the Hip had faded from my lips…but it continued to be in my ears without even trying.

Traditionally, I never really wanted to bother with concert albums, and through reflection for this blog post, I figure it had a lot to do with whether or not there was an accompanied visual component. In my past, I acquired Duran Duran’s concert album, Arena, in 1985 and INXS’s Live Baby Live when it debuted in 1991, but both have a concert video equivalent, so it felt ok to have the audio. What about the rest? I would take a ‘meh’ attitude. Is it because the album isn’t full of unique material? Is it that the band doesn’t perform as good live as they do on their albums? Is it because I feel I need a visual to feel connected to the performance? Is it jealousy because I wasn’t there in the crowd witnessing the band perform live? Maybe a little of all of it. I can say that with time and maturity, my musical taste for live albums has improved greatly over the years, and I find myself really enjoying them today.

The Tragically Hip’s Live Between Us is a concert album I never acquired until very recently… Although it wasn’t present in my mind, this release was getting daily radio play in the Spring of 1997, and surely still does. Having the reputation in Canada as being the best-selling live album by a Canadian band between 1997 and 2016, several of the songs were aired all the time on radio. According to RPM, Canada’s now defunct weekly music chart publication, Live Between Us began at #1 on the charts its first week (June 2, 1997) and continued to make the charts through that summer. It ended its tenure in the top 100 by late October that year. Springtime in Vienna got the ball rolling, debuting on the charts at #71, May 12, 1997, and topping to #7 in July. Yeah, like it or not, anyone with a radio living in the Great White North heard at least one of the songs off this album.

Critically, Live Between Us is pretty good as a live album. It showcases 14 songs from their November 1996 performance at the Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The band is tight, and Gord Downie’s voice is strong. Gord goes off on tangents and adds lyrics of other songs to his performances here – as was his way in concert – but in a fashion that fits the context of the song. What I don’t understand, however, is why they chose to only showcase one concert from one venue; perhaps this was the best one from the Trouble at the Henhouse tour?

The only thing left to ponder is the choice of songs on Live Between Us. All five studio albums released thus far are included here. Trouble At the Henhouse, the last studio album to be released before this one, and for which the Hip were out promoting, got four songs. Fully Completely and Day For Night have three songs a piece, while the first two releases, Up To Here and Road Apples have two songs each. I suppose you cram in what you can, but it seems a bit of a sacrilege to not include Locked in the Trunk of a Car or 50 Mission Cap, or Little Bones, instead opting for lesser known tunes like the Wherewithal and the Luxury. One thing I can say is that the lesser known tune, Don’t Wake Daddy, was my favourite performance here. Really, all of the tunes on Live Between Us are perfectly fine. The devil’s advocate says that it’s nice to hear some of the lesser known songs performed live for once! Maybe this album would have been better served as a double? Hmm.

At any rate, it’s pretty good. 4/5

Live Between Us
The Tragically Hip
1997

Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!

[Music] Trouble At the Henhouse – The Tragically Hip (1996)

Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on The Tragically Hip, Canada’s National band! Each week, we will travel through the history of releases by The Tragically Hip, going through EVERYTHING they’ve ever released in audio and video form – studio album, live show, video releases. So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!

Need to catch up? Previously:

I never actually owned a copy of the Tragically Hip’s fifth studio album, Trouble at the Henhouse, until a few years ago. What can I say; as much as I heard it over the summer of 1996 thanks in part to a friend who purchased the album, I never felt the pull to buy my own copy. Back then, the album seemed unbalanced in its offerings. Even now, listening to the album with refreshed ears with several revolutions on the platter this week, I can say that other than a few standout songs, Henhouse still doesn’t speak to me like the Hip’s previous efforts.

While Day For Night was a grittier, moodier album, Henhouse has seemingly stripped the grime away to get back to acoustic fundamentals. Of note is that Gord Downie’s voice, for the most part, takes centre stage instead of getting drowned out by the rest of the band. We benefit immediately in the first song, Gift Shop, with Gord’s vocals, crisp and clean. The track begins quietly, only to crescendo into a full rock song; a method that has become a Hip staple – seen again in the following song, Springtime in Vienna. Ahead By a Century is next, and is Henhouse‘s magnum opus; it’s pretty much a perfect song musically and lyrically. How can your heart not sing “tonight we smoke them ouuut“? It is certainly no surprise that it was a massive hit for the Hip.

I would be remiss not to mention other decent tunes on Henhouse: the bar room rocker 700 Ft Ceiling, the droning guitar strumming in the chorus of Don’t Wake Daddy (the air guitar comes out for this bad boy), and the dreamy sustained guitar in Sherpa that reminds me a lot of the Black Crowes.

The rest of the album’s songs miss the mark with me; I perceive them to be a string of forgettable unrefined tunes (Butts Wigglin, Let’s Stay Engaged), some with overprocessed vocals (Coconut Cream: Gord sounds tinny) or even icky lyrics (Apartment Song: she hates her ugly feet, and I hate this song). Now, before I start hearing the cats mee-ow from the audience, I am critiquing this with peace and love…and concern since it seems the Hip boys lost steam after writing such greats in Gift Shop and Ahead By a Century. It is almost as though the rest of the album needed to be left in the oven a little while longer to let them rise.

Overall, Trouble at the Henhouse does fare better than the Hip’s EP; it’s certainly better produced. But, one thing is for sure, after many spins, I am still having difficulty reaching the songs… or having the songs reach me on a higher level. Maybe I need to spin it some more?

3/5 for me.

Trouble at the Henhouse
Tragically Hip
1996

Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out Kevin’s take!