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)
- Review: Day For Night (1994)
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
Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out Kevin’s take!