The Tragically Hip – Phantom Power (1998)

Poets – Great drumming begin this song off, then subtle yet powerful guitars kick in. Gord’s voice settles it all down. This is a really great song. The first mention of a ‘superfarmer’ on the album. I’m not sure either. Maybe a dude with a straw hat, and coveralls with a big S on the front. “He’s been getting reprieve from the heat in the frozen food section.” Cool line. It reminds me of Al Bundy and family.

Something On – This song is a very visual song. “You’re never more hot than when you’ve got something on” and “The ice is covering the trees, and one of ’em’s interconnecting, with my Chevrolet Caprice.” Also. I’m a car guy, so any song with a car in it has me hooked.

Save The Planet – Very short but great guitar solo from Rob Baker. Also, bonus points for Paul Langlois singing his awesome background here. Oh, and cool flute near the end.

Bobcaygeon – Amazing song. If your Canadian you’ve heard it roughly 5 cajillion times. Possibly the best Sunday morning, coffee drinking song ever recorded. “Coulda been the Willy Nelson coulda have been the wine.” One of my personal favourites lines in a song. “Their voices sang with that Aryan twang.” I’m not sure how to interpret this line. I always think of an old country and western singer as having a twang.

Thompson Girl – The title reminds me of one of my favourite songs of all time, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner by Warren Zevon. The 2 songs are nothing alike. One about ghosts coming back to earth to seek revenge and the other about a girl that I assume is from Thompson, Manitoba. Both are memorable though, as they both sound awesome.

Membership – This song has a real 90’s, alternative music feel to it. More Paul Langlois backgrounds and subtle guitar keep it relevant today.

Fireworks – Another song us Canadians have heard tons. This one about a girl that doesn’t give a fuck about hockey. I remember finding a girl like that back in the day. She loosened my grip on Dougie Gilmour. If she could be more important to me than hockey, I had to marry her. The first use of the line solitude with options.

Vapour Trails – As a Canadian music fan,  when I think of Vapour Trails, I think of the Rush album. However, this song is pretty awesome. It is the first time Rob Baker lets loose on this album and cranks out some awesome riffs, and also has Paul Langlois background awesomeness. One of the most underrated songs in The Hip’s discography.

The Rules – Another great Sunday song. It’s easy like Sunday morning. Of note is the 2nd time on this album that a Superfarmer is mentioned.

Chagrin Falls – Having a start similar to Grace, Too is always a good thing. They usually sing about a Canadian town. Here they sing about Chagrin Falls, Ohio. This really is an awesome song. Another almost unknown that should have been bigger. Bonus points for Rob Baker adding in subtle psychedelic guitar work here, and points for the unique background vocals in which others help Paul out. The 2nd use of the lyrics solitude with options.

Escape Is At Hand For The Travelling Man – If you like simple, but yet awesome drumming this song is for you. Another mellow song. Just try and single the drums out though. They have a kind of jazz feel to them. Rob’s guitar is high pitched, and squeals, but turned way down to match the quiet tone of the song. The song reads like a true life story in which a musician attempts to meet up with a fellow musician in New York.

Emperor Penguin – The guitar tone has a country feel to it. The song goes from loud to quiet, and country to rock. Almost Blue Rodeo meets The Hip. I’m ok with that.

The album has a few areas lines are repeated in different songs. It is a sort of a cryptic thing. I’m not sure if the band was toying with us, or if we were supposed to find a clue. I only found out about it when listening carefully and reading the lyrics, but I’m 18 years too late. I get sort of a day For Night throwback to some of the songs. I get why they would want to capture the edge from that album, but again without Mark Howard, something was missing. I wish we could have had a bit more power let loose from Rob Baker, and more booming bass. Real good album though. Definitely worth another listen if it has been a while for you. Also bonus points for the album cover. I am into taking electrical stuff apart and seeing the gauges, wires, diodes etc. is cool for me. Points are lost though for the goofy, 90’s way of putting the song titles in a circle and making us turn them around to read them. Also my 40 something eyes strain to read the lyrics, but minor points.






27 thoughts on “The Tragically Hip – Phantom Power (1998)

  1. One of the guys at the Record Store, a guy named Neil, was a bit of a Hip hater, and when this album came out he labelled it “Phantom Talent”.

    I thought this album was a step up even from Henhouse. I loved it. Still do. Hard to find a used one in good condition though! I love the packaging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First off. Neil can suck it.

      The album was a step up from Henhouse. Better production. Better songs. There was a bigger drop off on Henhouse between the awesome songs and the good songs. Not so much here.
      I love the package too (Aaron in 5, 4, 3…)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d picked up on the superfarmer repeat hadn’t picked up on the solitude repeat – amazing with the hip, can hear new things every time!
    I liked when they went back to that recurring theme idea on World Container too.
    I’m agreeing with lots in this review Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To confuse things further, “aryan” is rather old… not sure how much twang comes from the east…

    adjective: Aryan
    relating to or denoting a people speaking an Indo-European language who invaded northern India in the 2nd millennium BC, displacing the Dravidian and other aboriginal peoples.
    . dated term for Proto-Indo-European or for Indo-Iranian.

    . (in Nazi ideology) relating to people of Caucasian race not of Jewish descent.

    noun: Aryan; plural noun: Aryans
    noun: Aryan; plural noun: Aryans

    .a member of the ancient Aryan people.

    .the language of the Aryan people.

    .(in Nazi ideology) a person of Caucasian race not of Jewish descent.


    • Unfortunately Hitler, and then skinheads turned an ancient word into a negative. Similar to a Swastika.
      I didn’t want to get into this on the post, but the wrong message could be sent in the use of this one word. Perhaps someone may look at The Hip as being racist. I could not see this, as they come across as the nicest people ever.
      If this song came out in 2016, I am sure someone involved would say that word is not politically correct. It should be changed.


      • Bop, no matter what you do, there’ll always be a bunch of dumdums who can find fault/offense in it.

        For Gordie, he was talking about the Men They Couldn’t Hang, if that helps.


  4. This is a great record. I have fond memories of it as I bought it new release day in Toronto when I was visiting my lovely girlfriend (now lovely wife). We played the whole thing when we got back to her place. A massive album , every track is killer!

    Liked by 1 person

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