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)
- Review: Road Apples (1991)
- Review: Fully Completely (1992)
I remember buying the Tragically Hip’s fourth album, Day For Night, shortly after its September 1994 release date. My sis and I had been obsessed with Fully Completely, and couldn’t wait to listen to the new album. Its newest single, Grace, Too, had been making the airwaves, and the song had a different sound than I was used to hearing from the Hip; I was interested in what else they had up their sleeve.
This is around the time that “grunge” as a musical genre had its talons in media, and especially with the death of Kurt Cobain in the spring of 1994, it seemed that sound was definitely not going anywhere. Grunge was so prevalent at this time that I think I was starting to burn out on it. Every band was coming out with a similar sound. The Tragically Hip made some noticable changes in musical style with Day For Night, to a degree critics began lumping their latest effort in with the rest of the grunge shlock.
I did not take an instant liking to Day For Night. In fact, it took thoughtful effort to pull the CD out of the case and give it a listen. It may be that radio was covering what my player wasn’t doing during that period. It could be, too, that at that point of time I had a lot of distractions: I was in my second year of an intense double major program, a part of which kept me in studio 12 hours a week, all compounded by a broken leg that November that did not heal properly (a story for another time). I had a lot of preoccupation! Even so, I felt that Day For Night was just “ok”. It wasn’t until my “Hip” friend Sandra and I hung out during the summer of 1996 that the album saw more frequent spins. It definitely needed more of my ear-time to fully appreciate it for what it wasn’t, which is a grunge record. Now, I can say I like it – not every song appeals to me, but it does have a couple of songs that have become forever favourites.
No doubt, Day For Night is a more brooding album than previous releases. This 59-minute 14-song album showcases a sophisticated and experimental sensibility not seen up until now, and attempts to shed the Hip’s bar room band persona for harder, yet more atmospheric, offerings. No better example of this than with the first song, Grace, Too: a quiet start that escalates into a wall of sound and echo that isn’t fancy, but effective. Gord’s powerful voice singing, “That’s what I’m here for!” can give you chills in the right context. This style of song carries through the entire album, seen in songs like Greasy Jungle, Yawning and Snarling, Fire in the Hole, Nautical Disaster, Thugs, and Impossibilium. Tunes Daredevil, Inevitability of Death and An Inch an Hour, do harken back to the Hip’s toe-tapping bar room days with familiar guitar riffs. Slower, subdued songs, So Hard Done By, Scared, Emergency, Titanic Terrarium smooth out the hard edges effectively.
Still, I have to say not every song is a hit with me. Greasy Jungle has become tiresome, thanks to radio. I never really liked Thugs, and I usually skip Fire in the Hole. I find myself gravitating towards the more unknown songs that never charted, like An Inch An Hour or Impossibilium.
Gord Downie, once again, wrote some significant lyrics in Day For Night, full of story and nuance, forever open to interpretation. Nautical Disaster, one of my all-time favourites, is a masterpiece lyrically. What band can write such an effective song about a disaster at sea that combines beautiful music, yet disturbing lyrics? My favourite song from the album, Emergency, has probably the most meaningful lyrics to me. If one were not to take the literal term of emergency as “urgent situation that needs action,” instead thinking of it in terms of “emerging,” the lyrics that repeat throughout: “emergency without end...” could mean we are ever-changing, and the creators of our own destiny…like a god.
Then Gord ends Emergency with the following line*:
...and your finger starts to wiggle, and landscapes emerge...
I give Day For Night a 4/5. It took me a while to like Day For Night, and got to a 4. I do like the style departure, but some songs don’t hit with me like they probably should. In any case, it doesn’t have as strong an appeal as other Hip albums have. Still, 2 songs are my favourites; that says something!
Day For Night (1994)
The Tragically Hip
*These lyrics are also found in the last song of the album, Impossibilium.
Thanks for reading! Please check out Kevin’s take!