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)
- Review:Trouble At the Henhouse (1996)
- Review: Live Between Us (1997)
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)
The Tragically Hip
Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!