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.

9.25/10

 

 

 

 

The Tragically Hip – Live Between Us & Yer Favourites (1997, 2005)

I wanted to do both of these albums together, since one is live versions of songs I have previously reviewed, and the other is a greatest hits package. Yer Favourites also has 2 new songs so I will review those as well.

Live Between Us. I have heard at least one radio dj question whether the album title was it was live (as in live your life) or live (as in live music). I always assumed it was Live (the 2nd one) Between Us since it is a live album. This album was recorded November 23, 1996 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. This single cd has 14 songs on it. I looked at the setlist from the shows before and after this show, and they had 22 or 23 songs. I wish this had been a 2 cd set with all of the songs that would have been heard that night. The production and sound quality is amazing on this cd. Apparently there were no overdubs or fixing of any kind on this album, and all I can say is the band was on fire, and near perfect.

The best part for me was Gord doing his thing. Changing lyrics, and adding in lines to songs. It is not quite Killer Whale Tank or Double Suicide, but still awesome.

Yer Favourites is an amazing, 2 cd best-of compilation. It includes some songs I will soon be reviewing, so I will stick to the 2 new songs. This compilation was chosen by the fans through an online poll, so we have no one to blame but ourselves if there are songs missing that we love. I would say it was really good. Maybe missing a few, but not many.

It is strange to me why they remixed 3 songs on this compilation. Looking For A Place To Happen, Fully Completely and Courage (For Hugh Mclennan, even though I say we make it for Gord Downie). They are all off of Fully Completely, and there are others on here from that album that do not get a remix. I do notice subtle guitar and drum differences. I’m not sure why the changes were needed.

No Threat – The version in the below video is a live version. The album version on this compilation sounds ever better. Gord has an edge to his voice and the musicianship is amazing.

The New Maybe – A really beautiful song. Soft and gentle like a spring breeze.

I will knock a bit off the score because I would have preferred the entire live setlist, and maybe a song or 2 added to the comp, but overall these are great albums.

9.5/10

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.

8/10