Man Machine Poem

[Music] Man Machine Poem – The Tragically Hip (2016)

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:

I bought the CD of Man Machine Poem basically on Day 1 of its release in June 2016. The Tragically Hip announced Gord Downie had a terminal brain tumor the December before, and with an announcement of a final tour that summer, I was down with buying this album. Kevin and I listened to it, and I felt it was a complete deviation from their past albums…or so I thought… Since that time, I know different, thanks in big part to doing this blog series on the Hip’s work.

Produced by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, and the Stills’ Dave Hamelin, Man Machine Poem is moody and devoid of bar-room rock. This style is not completely off-base for the Hip. We’ve seen them release something dark and different before (think Day For Night, In Violet Light, In Between Evolution), even experimental (Tiger the Lion from Music @ Work).

I enjoyed what I heard of Man Machine Poem back in the day, but it didn’t get the proper attention from me it commands, and I think I know why: the album is moody, and I have to be strongly centred to listen to it. Spinning the album five years later, knowing what I know today about what happened to Gord Downie, I can’t help but feel deeply emotional when listening to it. The best example is the first track, Man, with its electronic voice stating:

I'm a man and I'm a man. I do what I hate and don't understand

…for some reason this song gets me in the feels every damn time! And each subsequent track is just as heavy. I hear something eretheal in Downie’s lyrics, a deep emotion in his singing in every song, and even a personal catharsis. Rob Baker’s guitar and Johnny Fay’s crash symbol round out the tone of the record.

These songs were all written and recorded before Downie was diagnosed with cancer. Still, I feel sad and sentimental, knowing this would be the last latter day studio album of original songs with Gord at the helm we would ever get from the Tragically Hip, ever. Thank goodness, at least the remaining members are putting previously unreleased material out there for fans to enjoy.

I do feel Man Machine Poem is an important and significant edition to the Tragically Hip’s catalogue, and in the right setting, it strikes the right mood nicely. It’s a 4/5 for me.

Man Machine Poem
The Tragically Hip

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