Album Review : The Tragically Hip – Trouble At the Hen House (1996)

All in all, it’s probably better than trouble at the cat house. Let’s get right down to it.

Giftshop – I have an upcoming post about misheard lyrics, and this song has one. Can you guess which lyrics I misheard? The best part of the song for me is the second verse when the volume escalates. The song starts kind of quiet and then bam.

Springtime In Vienna – Funky bass begin this song off. Again this song starts off quiet and slow then bam. I see a trend here. Gord’s voice is in peak form here ladies and gents. Quiet then loud, then quiet, then loud.

Ahead By A Century – Such a catchy tune. This song will forever be played on Canadian rock radio. For good reason. It is a really great song. What nails it for me is Paul Langlois’ background lyrics. He really has a unique, high pitched, child like voice and sounds really cool in this song. The lyrics are real cool too.

Don’t Wake Daddy – What a cool thought. Kurt Cobain reincarnated as a sled dog. If I ever see a sled dog in a flannel shirt, I will buy him and rename him Kurt. Also, as a dad, I feel Don’t Wake Daddy is a good policy. Especially on a Sunday.

Flamenco – Speaking of Sunday. This is a perfect Sunday morning song. Pop this on if you get up early and you won’t disturb the family. It’s not some wimpy, watered down song though. It has a good base. Great vocals and instrumentation. Just a little softer than the rest, but not soft.

700 ft. Ceiling – This song really picks up the pace. I’m not completely sure the meaning of the lyrics. I think it is about making a hockey rink in your backyard and having open sky above, which he refers to as a 700 ft. ceiling. It has a really cool beat, and Gord has almost a snarl when he sings it.

Butts Wigglin – Every time I hear this song I think of the brilliant, defunct Canadian comedy troupe Kids In The Hall and their movie Brain Candy. The movie had funny bits but as is often the case, it is hard to transmit a comedy tv show to the big screen. Often too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the recipe.

Apartment Song – When I think of The Hip and apartments, I think of the “Double Suicide” live version of Highway Girl. Apartment Song however is about a woman with ugly feet who invites everyone to see. I’ll pass thanks.

Coconut Cream – Gord and Paul sing this one. Gord’s changes his voice on this one to be closer in pitch to Paul. Almost like he sucked in a tiny bit of helium before belting out the lyrics.

Let’s Stay Engaged – Sweet guitar tones start this one off. I had not heard this sound from Rob before. I wonder if he used a different guitar. A minute or so in and the bass fills out the bottom end in a low, smooth kind of way. Very underrated song. It might be one of the best on this album, and I bet if you asked 100 Hip fans, they wouldn’t remember it.

Sherpa – Again unique guitar. However I wonder if this time it is Paul Langlois. I am unsure of the song meaning. I think it is about being high. Not high on drugs, but high on your surroundings and the person you are with. In an inner consciousness, Zen yoga kind of way.

Put It Off – Booming bass and Eastern style sounds. Perhaps the band used a sitar and focused their inner Ravi Shankar. Also, Rob uses the wah pedal and it is a great mix with the sitar sound. Another underrated song that those same 100 would not be able to remember.

I must give credit where credit is due. Hammond organ duties are handled brilliantly by Peter Tuepah, and vibes(I’m not sure either) are handled by Greg Runions. The album does have some cool vibes, so I’ll give him that. No mention of Sitar, so I’m not sure. Maybe that was part of the vibes.

I must also confess I miss the production from previous albums though. This one does not seem as raw and loud as some before. The awesome booming bass, and pounding drums are gone. Also, Rob only briefly brings out the wah pedal once on this album. The Tragically Hip with Mark Vreeken were involved with the making of the last album as well. However, Mark Howard was in charge of production, recording and mixing. He is missing on this album and the album suffers greatly with his loss.

This more than anything lowers the score of this album for me. Also this album has more lesser quality tracks.


17 thoughts on “Album Review : The Tragically Hip – Trouble At the Hen House (1996)

  1. I know Greg Runions – I didn’t know he played on this!!
    I’ll have to ask him about it, he’s a stellar percussionist & as humble as you’ll meet.
    Glad we were in agreement on Paul’s backup vocals & Kids in the hall immediately springing to mind – nice call on the Sunday feel of Flamenco!

    Liked by 1 person

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