[Music] The Tragically Hip (EP) – The Tragically Hip (1987)

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!

I’m late to the Tragically Hip’s 1987 self-titled EP, it being one of the very last albums to add to my collection. It certainly isn’t the first time listening to it, but I think my initial reticence adding it to my collection was that it isn’t as strong an album, and meh, I don’t like any of the songs. Acquiring it was more of a formality.

I’ve been listening to the EP for the better part of a week in preparation for this review and my feelings toward it have warmed up. So far, I feel it is the least polished studio release the Hip have produced, but saying that, I also realize that this IS their first shot out of the gate, so I am careful not to critique it too harshly.

The Hip’s EP is 27 minutes long, eight songs in total (originally 7, but in latter releases on CD and vinyl have an eighth). As tunes go, there is a definite “bar-room band” feel to them, pure rock with a side of Labatt Blue (to pull from the popular beer of 1987). Uptempo beats, typical guitar riffs, and catchy choruses that get their hooks into you after a few listens.

The band doesn’t make strange here: there is little doubt to me that musically, this release sounds like the Hip. Where I initially needed more convincing is understanding that the voice at the mic was in fact Gord Downie. He sounded very different here! In some songs, Gord sounds like he is singing too low for his register; Small Town Bringdown, the first song on the EP, and probably the most known song from this release, is a prime example of this. In others, we can hear some of that good ol’ Gord, like the patriotic tune, Last American Exit or his sad crooning on Killing Time.

Mostly, the song lyrics on the EP revolve around small town life, love and loss in relationships and some shananigans. My favourite song is Cemetary Sideroad for its catchy chorus. The least favourite would probably go to the tune, Evelyn, but overall, there isn’t any particular song that I downright hate. The tune, I’m a Werewolf, Baby did get the ol’ “*skip* Oops did I do that?” from Kevin who obviously finds the song really silly. I find it hilarious:

“I lose control, I just can’t stop
You look so good, like a big pork chop
Ripped my pants, ripped my shirt
Gonna eat your mother for dessert”

Hey, as silly as the lyrics are, i actually really like the tune. Upbeat, catchy, and it has werewolf howls – awoooo!

Of course, there is always a Hip song that hits home for me – Highway Girl reminds me that pre-pandemic, I was once a Highway Girl (and might still be one if COVID ever ends…). There are plenty of us out there who are currently Home Girls, including an unknown colleague and fellow Highway Girl whose Jeep I would silently salute daily in passing in the parking lot at my work adorned with a HIWAYGRL vanity plate and Hip bumper sticker.

All-Canadian Surf Club is the “bonus” track on the EP, and lyrically, it really dredges up the feeling of summers on the beach, with a Canadian flare, especially the “two-four of beer, jean jackets and blonde hair” reference.

It’s always cool to listen to first releases from bands who later achieved massive appeal. In some cases they’re diamonds in the rough; this is how I equate the Tragically Hip’s EP. You can see where they are just getting the “chemistry for greatness” worked out in those early songs. It took a few listens for me to appreciate it, but I’m buying it.

2.5/5
Tragically Hip (EP) – Tragically Hip
1987

Thanks for reading! Now, head over to Kevin’s blog for his take!

15 comments

  1. Excellent call on the “Labatt Blue” vibe, Sarca – that is it exactly. I can totally picture a pool hall full of smoke & early hip riffs!
    Some hints of greatness for sure on this one & the bonus track provides an argument in favour of buying in multiple formats, as my CD has it but the Vinyl & Cassette versions do not!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Crazy to think that me and Tbone went to Crocks on a Saturday night in Feb/88 and there was this band from Kingston called the Tragically Hip.
    I had no idea who they were but a girl I was seeing, seen the add posted at the College at the time and suggested we go so that was the plan.
    Then a snowstorm hit on that Saturday and she didn’t want to go. So I called Tbone on the landline lol and he was in..
    Amazing and as Frank has told me that the Hip drove straight from NYC to Tbay and were starved so Frank made them grilled cheese as the Hip played 3 nights at Crocks to as Frank puts it 75-80 people tops over the 3 nights.
    I bought this on cassette tape from one of the guys in the Hip (have no idea who) but me and Tbone were both impressed with the live show as even today we still talk about Downie jumping on Langlois’s back during ‘I’m A Werewolf, Baby”..
    Good times and when did Kev get so serious with the lyrics lol
    A great memory of time to say we saw a band that went from nothing to something pretty mega..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow you and Kevin both gave this release 2.5/5 stars. But like Kevin said above, we’ll see if that changes overtime. Those lyrics to “I’m a Werewolf, Baby” are hilarious, then again should’ve saw that coming with the song title haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am eager for this series as I know nothing about them. If Apple Music has the album, I will stream it with each review so I can see what the fuss is even though this first one doesn’t have much fuss. Great start though and look forward to the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t believe I know this one. I mean, I’ve seen the cover before. But none of the song titles ring any bells. Perhaps I’ll check it out on the ole Spotify later.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I posted on Kevin’s, I’m not really familiar with all their music.

    So as you guys post i will be checking em out on Spotify. “Killing Time” is my favorite from this EP. The riff to kick it off made me pick up the guitar to learn it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was saying over at Kevin’s place that I didn’t remember this one, but I’ve just wrapped up a listen and I kinda remember why. Not great, not bad… it just kinda… is. Y’know? Anyhoo, that’s a good point about the vocals. One of the things I really dig about the Hip is the lyrics and vocals. You know you’re listening to the Hip. Maybe that’s why this one doesn’t stick – it could be any band from anywhere’sville.

    A fair rating.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just dropped the “bar band” quote on your guys take. The hip were just getting started and got themselves a record out with decent stuff that kinda hinted at what was coming. They learned their chops in all those Ontario bars and were ready for bigger things (but always keeping a foot in the bars). See ya next take.

    Liked by 1 person

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