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 Tragically Hip – My “Un-plucked” History
- Review: The Tragically Hip EP (1987)
- Review: Up to Here (1989)
Road Apples, the Tragically Hip’s third studio release, is one of several of their albums I associate with having strong emotions. Every time I listen to this, I take the same trip down memory lane – ultimately a nice trip, with a few “road apples”. It’s a rocking good time for the most part, while there are a couple of the tunes that honestly make me tear up. How can this album get me rocking, but also have me grabbing the kleenex?
I hadn’t acquired my CD copy of Road Apples until years after its initial release. However, the album’s songs were not a stranger to me by a long shot. Go to any bar or restaurant in Canada, and you’d likely hear something from Road Apples play over the stereo whilst dining. It is also a great commuter soundtrack: my copy has been a frequent companion over the years, as I journey daily to and from work. Road Apples, musically, is just easy rock. No fancy footwork. But, listen to the lyrics: that’s were the magic is.
Road Apples starts with that familiar guitar riff from Little Bones. We are then thrust into an upbeat rock tune with lyrics that are fully prepared for bar room games and stale beer. Without a break from the rock, Twist My Arm has us tapping our feet, but the lyrics give a hint of Canadian politeness with its “After you, no after me, no I insist please, after me!”
Cordelia, third song on the album, is the top ten single that never was. It’s a gorgeous rock tune, that introduces itself warmly, then kicks the door in; its title immediately reminiscent of King Lear’s forever devoted daughter, but then Gord makes clear that he is “…not Cordelia, I’ll not be there”. One of my Hip favourites.
Road Apples is full of rockers that never made it to radio, but are still greats: Fight, Bring It All Back, and On the Verge all kick butt. I would be remiss if I failed to mention Budweiser’s theme song that never was, Born in the Water… Just kidding! The way that song starts always reminded me of old late 80s – early 90s beer commercials. The mellow tune, The Luxury, and the short and sweet The Last of the Unplucked Gems slow things down respectfully.
Let’s talk about emotional “grab the box of tissues” songs on Road Apples…Long Time Running is a slow dance… and I feel sad listening to it. My heart hurts reading the lyrics back and knowing Gord Downie is no longer with us. The Hip have since used the title Long Time Running in their 2017 documentary release of their last concert tour. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when the Hip performed it for the last time…Then we have the quiet biographical Fiddler’s Green about a baby boy who died. I can’t help but choke up listening to it. What can I say, I’m a sensitive soul…
Lastly, let’s talk about my pinnacle tune from Road Apples: Three Pistols. The eighth track on the album happens to be one of a handful that I would consider “soundtrack of my life” songs… like, “play this at my funeral” songs. This is one of ’em, and it’s my favourite song on the record. Gord’s strong vocals are gorgeous here (maybe his best?). And me having a lifelong love of art (and formal education in Fine Art) the lyrics regarding Tom Thomson, Canadian painter who drowned before he could ever be considered part of the Group of Seven “paddling by” is an image that sticks with me. It also has one of the best quotable lines:
"I say, bring on the brand new renaissance, 'cause I think I'm ready. And I've been shaking all night long, but my hands are steady..."
Bring it on indeed.
Overall Road Apples is a fantastic and well-rounded rock record that wouldn’t disappoint by any stretch. No “road apples” here!
Thanks for reading! Now head over to Kevin’s blog for his take!