[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

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

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


  1. It’s a simple album cover, but it’s eye-catching, especially with the yellow. Dude, I’m about to graduate college and I’m terrified about job searching. I’m sorry about your not-so-pleasant experience at your internship, but I’m glad The Tragically Hip was there to lift you up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with Lana, great album cover. With such a big score, how can I not give this one a try. I’m still not sold on these guys as they remind me too much fo R.E.M. and that style. But I will keep giving them a fair shake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny you should mention REM…that thought did cross my mind with this album, that their sound here did remind me a tad of REM…


  3. I used to bug my old boss with Bobcaygeon, singing it in the whiniest voice I could muster, because he hated the song. But I loved it. SO Canadian.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As I was saying over at Kevin’s, I really like this one. It was a stand-out when I first got hip to the Hip (think that really happened when I listened as Geoff did his series a few years ago)… this really got its hooks in. Timing was probably perfect, too.

    And there’s a lot to be said for those albums that have been there. I have a few of them that just mean so much to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An Office Space-esque environment during the Mike Harris Ministry of Ed years sounds less than ideal!
    But even in the darkest of times, I’m pleased the hip can help get us through.
    Good call on Escape is at Hand, another of the great hidden gems in the hip catalogue.
    I’m lucky enough to have been to Bobcaygeon, still hoping to one day listen to Thompson Girl in Thompson, Manitoba!

    Liked by 1 person

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