The Tragically Hip – In Between Evolution (2004)

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The first thing I noticed when I bought this cd was the Parental Advisory Sticker on the front cover. Wow. Yes there are 5 f-bombs on this album, but they are on 2 songs not played on radio. The album has a song that was a tribute to a young man killed in his prime, so that good karma should outweigh the swearing in my opinion. If Tipper Gore has a problem with the language I have 2 words for her. The first one rhymes with truck, and the second word is the opposite of On.

The band chose Adam Kasper to be the producer on this record. His resume reads like a who’s who, especially with his work with the most famous grunge bands of the 90’s.

Heaven Is A Better Place Today – This song was a dual tribute for a man from my hometown, Dan Snyder, and for young men being sent to war. I mentioned this song on my Tribute to Gord Downie. The song sounds a bit like REM. I really want to love this song due to the theme, but I can only like it.

Summer’s Killing Us – Another song I don’t mind. It sounds like a generic early 90’s band to me, which is enough to give you a feeling of nostalgia, but not much more.

Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park – Now we get to the meat of the album. The guitar work is amazing, the bass is booming and the drums pound. Gord sings different here as well. Different in a good way, and the background vocals work too. It all works.

Vaccination Scar – Another great song. I really like the guitar sounds. They have kind of a Mike Campbell from Tom Petty’s band The Heartbreakers quality.

It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night – The f bombs grab your attention for a few seconds, and the band keeps you roped in. It isn’t a great song, but a decent Hip song, which is better than most. The band had a brief cameo on the Canadian tv show Corner Gas in which they portray a garage band practicing this song.

New Orleans Is Beat – The beginning reminds me of Nautical Disaster but does not have the history or the lyrical quality. It is not the same quality, but is a nice Sunday AM listen.

You’re Everywhere – This is a  really good song, with subtle, yet great guitar work. Also, Gord has a energetic and almost punk like vocal delivery.

As Makeshift As We All Are – This one harkens back to the 90’s as well. I can’t quite place the song, but the beat sounds identical to an early 90’s hit. The guitar work is very brief, and I wish they had included more of the riffs throughout.

Mean Streak – Haunting song that could have well fit on the last album. It seems out of place here, but it is a great song. Mellow at one moment and intense the next. Again, the guitar work is amazing.

The Heart Of The Melt – This has a feel of the early Hip. It could have fit right in on Up To Here. That has to mean it is really good. Rob Baker shines again.

One Night In Copenhagen – No surprise, great guitar work begin this song off. The f bombs flow like water in this one, but they are not unwelcome. They kind of suit the song. The lyrics on this song seem to have more meat than some others on this album.

Are We Family – Another nice, mellow song. The layering of the song with the main vocals blending with the background vocals is a neat touch.

Goodnight Josephine – The guitar work, well you know. It almost has a similar beginning to the song tomorrow by Silverchair. A shout out to Tom McGurk for the excellent horn work added.

I think that Adam Kasper wanted to bring some elements of the 90’s (his heyday) into this album, and they did seem to work in some cases. I wish he had gone towards the harder edged banded such as Soundgarden and Foo Fighters. Instead he choose early 90’s radio friendly songs as his influence. I think this could have been a better album if 2 or 3 tracks were left off. I think the power from previous albums was missing as well.

I must admit that I really, really wanted to love this album. I was reeling at the time as Dan Snyder was a  hometown hero that had just been killed. I bought the album and loved 2 tunes, liked a few more, but felt it was one of the weaker Hip albums. Doing this review, I have listened to the songs in more detail, and have found it is a better album than I remember it. The gap between the great and good songs was not as large as I thought it was. I suggest to anyone that wrote the band off at this album to give it a few more listens. Hopefully you can come to like it better than before.

8.25/10

 

 

The Tragically Hip – In Violet Light (2002)

The Hip chose Hugh Padgham as the producer for this album. He had already won 4 Grammys, was voted one of the Top Ten Most Influential Producers, and was the inventor of the “Gated drum sound”. This sound is most famous on the Phil Collins song In The Air Tonight, and was a very popular drum effect in the 1980’s. He obviously had the goods, so let’s see how he would do on this album.

Are You Ready – This song starts off in the right direction. It reminds me of a Pearl Jam song, although the lyrics are completely understandable. No glorified version of a pelican to be found.

‘Use It Up’ – The drumming and guitar work are the stars here. Also there are shout outs to Springsteen and Randy Newman.

The Darkest One – One of the 3 singles from this album. The very start of the song has some eerie guitar work reminiscent of a Rob Zombie song. Both the lead and rhythm guitars are great here. The bass sounds better than the last album, and the drums pound endlessly during this song. The below video has 3 icons in Canada. Don Cherry, Trailer Park Boys and The Hip. I think it should be mandatory viewing for anyone entering this country.

It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken – Dreamy, psychedelic Pink Floyd like guitar work start this song off. In fact Rob Baker does a really great David Gilmour impression here. The song goes back and forth between trippy and mellow and hard edged.

Silver Jet – Gord almost has a bit of a Michael Stipe like quality on this song. Again the drums and guitar are the stars here. The bass is booming just enough to let us know its deep down where it belongs. The song lyrics “there’s a heron outside, inviolate light” is a cool play on words representing the album title and the picture on the album cover.

Throwing Off Glass – The song was included in the soundtrack for the movie Men with Brooms. Possibly the only movie ever made about curling. The film is over the top Canadian, but it has music from The Hip, so it must be ok. The song has some cool guitar effects, and like most Hip songs, great lyrics.

All Tore Up – The guitar work reminds me of Hey, Tonight by CCR. It also has some cool wah pedal effects going on.

Leave – A cool song from a bird’s perspective. Sort of a coffee shop poetry skit done in song.

A Beautiful Thing – This song could easily have come out in 1965. It has aspects of The Byrds, The Monkees and especially Sonny & Cher. The mellower parts remind me of I Got You Babe, but Rob Baker’s amazing guitar work bring it right back to 2002.

Dire Wolf – A song that was a result of a treacherous crossing the band took during stormy waters between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The drum work is similar to I Don’t Care Anymore by Phil Collins. No surprise, the producer on that album was also Hugh Padgham. The acoustic guitar is mellow and nice on this song. As each verse progresses so does the volume level of Rob Baker’s electric, then about a minute in he lets loose. I could not find a studio version of this song online, so I included a live clip. Incidentally I was at this show in 2009.

Dark Canuck – What would you get if you mixed The Hip, a punk influenced rock band in The Headstones vein, and threw in some twangy, country sounding guitars. The first half of this song of course. 3 minutes in though, the band has had enough of the country feel, and switches gears completely. The song sounds like a completely different, harder rock song. The drums and guitar pound wonderfully, the bass booms and Gord’s voice belts out the lyrics. The song ends with some more Hugh Padgham effects. Great, great song.

Thank you Hugh Padgham for not adding unnecessary musicians and singers, for turning the volume back up, and letting these great musicians do what they do best. The little additions you brought to the table were all welcomed.

9.25/10

 

 

 

 

The Tragically Hip – Music @ Work (2000)

This album saw the use of Steve Berlin again as the Producer. He did a great job on the last album, as well as for many other artists. He also brought with him the expertise he had from being in Los Lobos. He met the band during the Another Roadside Attraction cross Canada tours and instantly admired the band for their professionalism. The title of the album comes from the fact that members of the band were becoming fathers, and making music was work.

My Music At Work – We have all heard this song a million times up here in the Great White North, eh. It is still a song that I will not skip over though. It’s really great, and makes you think as so often Gord’s lyrics tend to do. “in a sink full of Ganges, I`d remain.”

Tiger The Lion – This song starts off in a psychedelic sound that changes to being grunge like. Although it is the cooler aspect of grunge, in the STP or AIC vein. It is surprising to me that a band that put out albums through the grunge era, took roughly 9 years to have a similar sound. It really is a loud, cool song.

Lake Fever – Speaking of the 90`s, this song has sort of an Alanis Morissette sound to it. Not in a man bashing kind of way, just the instrumentation reminds me of one of her songs. “I`ll tell you a story about the Lake Fever or we can skip to the coital fury.” Umm. I think I`d rather hear the story, Gord.

Putting Down – The drumming here is really cool. The end of each verse has drums pounding with every word.

Stay – Gord`s voice changes throughout this song. At times he sings normally, at times he goes deeper in a bit of a Leonard Cohen sort of way. Awesome either way as far as I`m concerned.

The Bastard – Mr. Hussein (I`m not sure) adds a flair on tabla here and gives this song a sort of Santana feel. I thought the lyric sheet was wrong, but the lines are actually spoken by Paul Langlois, and are slightly drown out in the mix.

The Completists – The lyrics here are pretty cool. It comes off as if from a women in a fellow band that states her band is “the completists” and Gord  responds that his band is “the complete-est.” Damn right, Gord.

Freak Turbulence – This song is kind of a throw back to earlier Hip. It comes across as more straight ahead rock, in an almost She Didn`t Know kind of way.

Sharks – Cool guitar begins this song off, and continues throughout the song. The drumming is good as well, but something about this song leaves me wanting more.

Toronto #4 – The biggest thing I notice about this song is the addition of background vocalist and a cello player. Very mellow. Possibly a bit too mellow and soft.

Wild Mountain Honey – Sadly this is not a cover of the amazing Steve Miller Band song, but is a pretty good song in its own right. The phrasing in this song is pretty cool. “I don`t (pause) wanna (pause) ask you (pause) what you (pause) got in your head.”

Train Overnight – Finally Rob Baker is allowed to play his guitar the way it meant to be played. Too little too late to keep this album on par with previous efforts, but I`ll take what I can get.

The Bear – This song is just sort of there for me. I don`t hate it, but don`t really like it all that much either. Sedate and muted instruments. Ok lyrics and Gord sort of on cruise control.

As I Wind Down The Pines – Has a bit of the acoustic flavour of Behind Blue Eyes, but none of the meat or power. Excellent song choice if you are trying to get a baby to go for an afternoon rest. Not a great or even good Hip song though. Definitely not a song to attempt to close out an album.

For me the use of extra musicians on this albums sometimes helped, but often hurt. Way, wayyy too mellow for me. Steve Berlin did much better work on the last album, but on this one the band sometimes went from a rock act to a world music, or light rock/folk act. The bass was almost non existent, background singers replaced Paul Langlois for no reason, and the biggest shame is the lack of amazing guitar work from Rob Baker. The difference between the really good songs from the good songs was huge, and there were 3 or 4 songs that were sub-par Hip songs, and should have been left off the album.

7/10

 

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