Album Review : The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem (2016)

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I went to the record store and asked the young guy behind the counter for my album that I had reserved. I was the first one in the store and so obviously the first purchase. He said “The first purchase of the day and it is the new Hip on vinyl. That is sweet.” We chatted about the Hip. He said his dad always tried to get him to listen to the band, but he ignored them because he felt they were a “Dad’s band”. Now with the news of Gord’s poor health it got him to check the back catalogue and he regrets not listening to his dad. (Don’t we all?). We agreed that they are so Canadian. “Like Rush” he exclaimed. It was refreshing walking into this particular chain and having a guy half my age agree with me on a band. Usually I get the blank stare, glazed over eyes look when I ask about anything not in the top 40, and the “Let me check the computer. How do you spell Led Zeppelin?”

When I got home I was excited to open the shrink wrap (I love gatefold albums, but it sucks that the shrink can not be used to protect this style of album). I was eager to see if the album was coloured. Sure enough, it was pristine, white vinyl. I was unsure if some copies would be white and others black. From all indications, all vinyl copies are white. I wanted the deluxe vinyl edition but they were delayed, were more than twice the price, and the big bonus was only a frame to mount the extra cover on the wall. Yes the deluxe also comes with a cd, but the biggest kicker is I wanted this sucker today, not in a week or two, so the regular vinyl edition it was.

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Man – WTF is that at the start? I looked to see if they had cut the vinyl at 45rpm as is the trend now. Since I had the player on 33 1/3 for a normal record, I was not sure this was the right speed needed. After a bit the instruments chimed in and they sounded fine, then Gord sang and I knew all was fine. Still WTF was that start about? It sounds like it was the wrong speed, or kind of a robotic baby talk gibberish. One thing that is abundantly clear. Johnny Fay was going to ensure the drumming on this album was going to be way more pronounced than ever before on a Hip album. The keyboard work was great too. Also, the guitar work, was loud but also loud in a quiet kind of way. What I mean is that this is a great guitarist that can subtly play awesome chords without thrashing and drowning out all of the other instruments. More robot baby talk, and the song makes an abrupt ending.

In a World Possessed By The Human Mind – A real catchy tune. This is the lead single. Great drumming, sweet guitar, and Gord Downie. ‘Nuff said.

What Blue – The sound on this song is a little off. The drums sound a bit too loud, if that is possible. Then after 30 seconds or so the sound is better. The guitar work here is excellent and the background, distant vocals are a cool touch.

In Sarnia – Has almost an old country song start with what sounds a bit like a steel pedal guitar, then the song morphs into a beat a bit like John Lennon’s song Watching The Wheels. John Lennon beat, with way better guitars, drumming and Gord Downie. I am ok with that.

Here, In The Dark – This is another very catchy tune. I would think this would be another single, but unfortunately nothing is uploaded yet so I can not share. The guitar work and drums are stellar, and Gord’s voice is in peak form. This song could well have fit on Road Apples. It reminds me a bit of On The Verge. It`s that good. I dare you to listen to this and not have your toes and fingers tap. Maybe even air drum or air guitar. Don`t say I didn`t warn you.

The tonearm lifts to end side A and I flip the record over, brush off any dust (even though brand new, I have learned that white vinyl is near impossible to see dust on) and settle in for some more Hip.

Great Soul – For a brief few moments of this song it has kind of a AIC-Check My Brain meets stoner rock feel to it. I would have absolutely loved to see the Hip doing an entire song in that vein. It was unfortunately not going to happen though. The song is much more mellow than the beginning would have you believe. The song is nice enough, but the feelings of what could have been are too strong to resist. The slightly distorted guitar mixed with higher pitched, clean guitar and crashing cymbals on this song almost make up for it though.

Tired As Fuck – A mellow song with a cool beat. The guitar near the end of the song has kind of a Nashville feel to it. The title also represents how I feel every morning while the sweet coffee is brewing. I saw on The Hip website they have coffee mugs with this saying. I need one of those.

Hot Mic – 1, 2, 3, 4. Then the wicked guitar and booming drums kick in. Another amazing song. This could have been easily off of Trouble At The Henhouse. I get a definite Springtime In Vienna vibe here.

Ocean Next – Has an acoustic guitar, and a trippy, psychedelic feel to the vocals. To me it is Tragically Hip meets Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet meets early Pink Floyd. How is that for a mashup.

Machine – Drums, guitar and computer generated echoing sounds start this song off. Gord sings in varying degrees of pitch going from deeper than usual to higher than he often does. Wicked guitar kicks in and I am seriously bobbing my head up and down to this sweet song. This really is a great Hip song. If this is the last Hip song ever recorded, I will not be happy, but will be ok.

The album ends and I choke up. The entire thing floods me with emotion. I know the album was recorded before Gord’s diagnosis, but at times it is almost foreboding. Some of the lyrics. The deeper tones. It almost seems like a send off, even if was not intended to be that way.

To me the handwritten credits and lyrics on the cover are not my favourite. I have an issue with bands trying to be cute with album liners. Perhaps legible ones could have been on the album and an insert could have been included with the scratchy, scribbled, almost illegible ones we are stuck with. Another nitpick would be that there is no download card or cd included.  Also, Gord Sinclair`s bass could have been turned up once in a while to let us know he was there, and Paul Langlois could have done his Yin to Gord Downie`s yang as on previous efforts. However, overall this may perhaps be the best album the band has put out since the heydays of the 90`s. If this is the last we hear from The Hip, we know they went out on their own terms, and they delivered a great album to boot.

9/10

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Album Review : The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem (2016)

    • Thanks Mike. It is like love. Highest of highs with the occasional, emotional low. The listener gets that feeling too. At least I did. I know you will like it. I think this album will bring a ton of old school Hip fans back into the mold, and we can stop hearing about how they haven’t put out a great Hip album out in over 20 years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Looks like A-Ron posted a review this morning too! I know I will like it. I have been loving the single. I don’t mind some darkness a lot of my favourite Hip songs are dark. In Violet Light is one of my favourite albums.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I saw this at 4pm – didn’t read, instead ran out with the kids to the mall & picked it up immediately!
    Thank you for the reminder Brian, now that I’ve read your great post, may I say well reviewed – I’m so pleased that we’ll get to see them live later this summer, even if we’re not physically there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J. says:

    Nice write-up, Bop – probably no surprise that it’s scored so highly.

    As for the release itself, I tend tothink a download code is the very least that a label / band could include with a vinyl release. There aren’t many indie releases that come without one of those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks.

      I agree. I buy enough vinyl to know that $25 is the high end of the price scale for a single disc. Even if it is coloured.

      My opinion. Offer a black vinyl disc. Then a limited colour for more money. Then a vinyl/cd combo. A regular cd. A double deluxe cd and double vinyl deluxe with added songs and outtakes. Give us choice.

      Yes. At the very least a download code.

      I have bought new double vinyl with a cd included for less than this single platter.

      Like

      • J. says:

        New vinyl’s a strange thing. Sometimes you get all the goods and sometimes you get none. I tend to feel awfy disappointed when I open up a new record and find a plain white inner and no code.

        Even a good gatefold doesn’t make up for plain white inners and no download code.

        Indies tend to get it right most of the time, though. I guess they know what folks are after …

        Like

  3. Excellent review, Bop. I agree fully. I hadn’t noticed the Lennon thing but you’re right. Lots of return to older sound yet still moving forward. A great record that will only grow in stature with repeat listens – as happens with all Hip records (natch).

    Mmmm that white vinyl looks so sweet. I got the CD, but now I want one of those too! 😉 I also want one of those coffee mugs. If you’re ordering and need more for free shipping, get me one and I’ll reimburse!

    I think we should all come back to this album a year from now and re-review it…

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my yes, full agreement from here. But that word ‘terminal’ is one to be faced. Ach nevermind, he’s still here, about to tour, and for a little while, at least, it’ll still be alright. All power, love and strength to Gord and his family through all of this!

        Like

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