SOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-We Are the Same (2009).
I first heard of The Hip when I saw their video for “Nautical Disaster.” This is back in the day when I first got Canada’s MuchMusic on my Brighton, MA cable system, and when I actually watched Music channels. Anyhow, the song was intense and very cool and it built to a great climax, and I was totally hooked.
I got their back catalog and continued to get their new releases. Since then they’ve released some really good songs, and some pretty good discs. It almost feels like since their live disc they decided to switch from intense songwriting to more simple, straightforward rock. This is a little disappointing to fans of their intense stuff, and yet if you accept the change in style, the music is quite solid.
So this disc seems to be shooting for an even broader, more commercial appeal. And, in the first half, at least, they emphasize a more folksy/country feel. All of this should make me flee from the disc, and I think longtime fans are pretty disappointed by it. And yet, I can’t get over how much I like it. There’s something slightly off about the Tragically Hip that keeps them from being overtly commercial. So that even when they release a disc like this, which is quite mellow in places, it still sounds alternative. Maybe it’s Gord Downie’s voice, maybe it’s something in the melodies; whatever it is, it keeps this disc from being blah.
The final track, Country Day” seems to sum up the overall feel of the disc: meandering country roads. And “Queen of the Furrows” is about farming. The opening few songs have a Neil Young folkish feel, since “Morning Moon” and “Honey Please” have big catchy choruses with folky verses
“Coffee Girl” actually reminds me of a serious Barenaked Ladies type song, which is disconcerting coming from the Hip, but could possibly become a hit (it’s probably their most overtly commercial song I can think of since “My Music at Work”). Actually, I take that back, one of the final tracks on the disc, “Love is a Curse” sounds like it’s their last ditch attempt to have a big hit in the States. And if they were a more well known (or on a bigger label) it would be a huge hit. It rocks pretty hard and screams radio friendly.
The Hip of old do surface on two songs though: “Now the Struggle Has a Name” is one of those great sounding Hip songs: as you’re singing along to the swelling chorus you wonder why they aren’t huge down here, and then you realize the song is 6 minutes long and will never get on the radio. There’s also a 9 minute song, and the good news is that it doesn’t get boring (no mean feat).
The second half of the disc has more loud guitars. The cool riff of “The Exact Feeling” is pretty great. While “Frozen in My Tracks” is probably the weirdest track on the disc, with a very cool, off-sounding chorus.
So yeah, the disc has horns and strings and is maybe a little too polished and produced. But the songwriting is still stellar. I’m sure that if I had heard these songs now without knowing the Hip, I wouldn’t be all that impressed. Maybe as I get older I’m less critical, or maybe I’m just happy to mellow out a bit more.
[READ: Week of July 20] Infinite Jest (to page 367)
Even though last week I said I would keep to the Spoiler Line Page, I am breaking the promise already. I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a passage unfinished, so I just continued to the section break of Gately’s A.A. meeting.
When I first read IJ way back in 1996 I, like most Americans, didn’t really think too much about Canada. I liked a lot of Canadian music and The Kids in the Hall were awesome, but beyond that I was pretty oblivious to our neighbors to the north. Since then, I have become something of a Canuckophile. I did Curling for two years and have visited up North a number of times. We even had a Canadian satellite dish where we watched most of our TV (like Corner Gas and The Rick Mercer Report) until that moderately legal company was sued out of business. Now I subscribe to The Walrus which keeps me well informed. Anyhow, this is all to say that I have a greater understanding of Quebec separatists and the state of US border relations. This makes this whole Marathe-Steeply section more interesting to me this time around. I sort of went from Hal (apolitical) to a quarter of the way to Avril in my understanding.
But before we get to that, lets get into the book and learn about Orin. (more…)
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