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)
- Review: Phantom Power (1998)
- Review: Music @ Work (2000)
- Review: In Violet Light (2002)
- Review: In Between Evolution (2004)
- Review: That Night in Toronto (DVD)(2005)
- Review: Yer Favourites (2005)
- Review: World Container (2006)
- Review: We Are the Same (2009)
I bought the Tragically Hip’s 12th album, Now For Plan A, when the HMV stores went tits up in Canada in Spring 2017, and I got it for a song. It embarrasingly remained in shrinkwrap in a basket by my couch for months until we pulled our “resting” music collection out of storage that Fall. I still hadn’t listened to it until this week.
Now for Plan A is once again a departure from the previous “departure” albums, World Container and We Are the Same. The Bob Rock polish from latter releases has been scuffed up again thanks to Canadian producer, Gavin Brown who ensured the Hip’s capable grit and urgency was once again given a spotlight. There is loud on this one and very little calm. Even with the subdued songs, Rob Baker doesn’t turn the guitar down, Johnny Fay constantly hits the crash cymbal, and Gord Downie’s lower register returns. If you prefer your Hip with a constant rock edge, this might be your record.
At Transformation starts the album off with a delicious strum of a guitar and develops into the urgency found in Vaccination Scar from In Between Evolution. Man, that guitar tone…delicious! Not surprised this was released as a single (although I wasn’t listening to radio at this point).
Man Machine Poem follows, and perhaps is a preview of what is to become of the Hip album of the same name (the next album to review). A lyrically simple song that starts subdued and crashes into a sweeping crescendo. The guitar play is quite pleasant, but Gord Downie strains himself through it. Never mind man machine – echo machine is all over this one to the point that I feel like the voice is being sung into a tunnel.
The Lookahead is a short, catchy rock track that is pretty ready for radio. Sarah Harmer helps out with backing vocals. Some great lyrics in the chorus here:
You weigh a snowflake Cause great trees to fall Descending On perfect arms Like Jeff Beck To give me the lookahead
Things slow down a tad with We Want to Be It, a sentimental and likeable Hip tune, whose vibe is hyped up by the next tune, the urgent Streets Ahead. Some great guitar work here, but a little too much pro tools effects on Gord’s voice.
Now For Plan A follows; it’s a quiet and serene tune – about the only one on Now For Plan A so far. It’s lovely and atmospheric. Sarah Harmer’s gentle voice once again tends to the backing vocals.
The Modern Spirit starts up with a drumbeat similar to In View, and then breaks into a rock song, which, if we are to take the instrumental of the tune, wins. But, this one is probably my least favourite song here. Why does Gord sound like he is in pain?
About This Map is next, and I really love the vibe of this song. A great bass line, great fingering on that guitar, harmonies are strong…and even though the lyrics aren’t much other than “about this map,” and “want to want to,” the tune itself is pretty.
Take Forever is a typical Hip bar room rock tune with all the trappings. Good guitar riffs. That bass! Gord Sinclair kicks it out of the park on this one. This one could easily live on radio, although it was not released as a single.
Done and Done follows, and we’re met with another quiet, but emotional, song. Gord Downie’s voice is right in the range where it should be – beautiful. I really like this one.
Goodnight Attawapiskat is the political and power song of the album…located in Northern Ontario, Attawapiskat First Nation is known as the place where De Beers leased land from the tribe to build a diamond mine. The lyrics bite, when you imagine the predatory nature of the situation:
And though there's no sign of a songbird up here yet No one to take advantage of We know that life is short nobody can afford it To sing a song that they don't love I've come too far to feel like this You've come too far to feel like that
Now For Plan A is the Tragically Hip’s shortest album at 39 minutes. Overall, a pretty good album, a few small issues I have with the production, like the overuse of echo, and poor Gord sounds in pain in some of the tracks, but overall a decent rock album. It’s a 3/5 for me.
Now For Plan A
The Tragically Hip
Thanks for reading! Now check out Kevin’s take!