I decided to listen to the discography of the Tragically Hip in chronological order. This is not the first time or the first band that I have attempted this feat with. I have done complete discography listens of The Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads, The Beatles and others in the past. Having considerable experience with this I offer these warnings before we start.
The opinions expressed herein do not represent the opinions of myself, my family, my friends, my second-grade teacher Miss Brown, or even myself depending on how long ago I wrote them. No other opinion is expressed or implied by me, myself or anyone I associate with, not that they would admit to knowing me in the first place.
This blog has been rated PG-13 by myself. Any resemblance to actual blogs is unintentional and purely a coincidence. This blog is for entertainment purposes only. Past blogs do not guarantee future results. Reader discretion is advised. If tinnitus or tendonitis develops, discontinue use and seek medical advice. All opinions are subject to change without notice.
Do not try this at home; the author is a trained listener. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. No animals were used during testing. Void where prohibited except where not prohibited. Do not look into the CD laser with your remaining good eye.
I will state categorically at the very beginning that tragically I do not have the entire discography of the Tragically Hip, I only have enough to be a bit hip.
This is their official discography:
- The Tragically Hip (MCA, 1987)
- Up to Here (MCA, 1989)
- Road Apples (MCA, 1991)
- Fully Completely (MCA, 1992)
- Day for Night (MCA, 1994)
- Trouble at the Henhouse (MCA, 1996)
- Phantom Power (Universal, 1998)
- Music @ Work (Universal, 2000)
- In Violet Light (Universal, 2002)
- In Between Evolution (Universal, 2004)
- World Container (Universal, 2006)
- We Are the Same (Universal, 2009)
- Now for Plan A (Universal, 2012)
- Man Machine Poem (Universal, 2016)
I listened to:
7/14 ain’t too shabby but Apple Music filled in a few songs that I didn’t have physical copies of.
From the opening chords of their self-titled first album it is unmistakably The Tragically Hip, “Small Town Bringdown” connects us to the band through lyrics that perfectly describe small-town Canada:
“It’s a sad thing, bourbon’s all around
to stop the feeling when you’re living in a small town”
I really paid attention to the details while listening to this album and it came alive for me like it was the first time I had ever heard it. The album The Tragically Hip closes with a stinging bite at Canadian small towns:
“You’re really hanging with the crowd, you know the ins and the outs here
All Canadian Surf Club, denim jackets and long hair”
Could have been me in 1973, long hair and denim jacket trying to find a place in the crowd and not very good at learning the ins and outs and social protocols of small-town life.
Next audio audition was Fully Completely and a bit of Western Canadian bravado, “At The Hundredth Meridian”, where the great plains begin. Being a cowboy at heart and a surveyor in years gone by, this song really resonated with me:
“Driving down a corduroy road,
Weeds standing shoulder high”
This could be any road west of the hundredth meridian, I surveyed west of the 4th meridian and drove my share of corduroy roads and walked through many fields that were shoulder high and ditches with weeds of equal stature. I can’t help but think of the song “Saskatchewan Sea” by The SplendourBog: “The tallest thing around here is me.” I have a feeling Gord Downie would be in agreement with that lyric.
“Wheat Kings” is a song based on a true story about David Milgard who was wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit but was eventually set free. This is considered one of the most beloved songs of the Hips repertoire and is about as Canadian as you can get. In fact, the legal case involved is still taught in law schools.
Next album on the list is Day for Night and one of my personal favourite Hip songs, “Grace Too”:
“I come from downtown, born ready for you
Armed with will and determination, and grace, too”
This is sort of like my personal story, I come from downtown Edmonton. I was born ready for my wife Valerie. Armed with a will, I want this relationship to work. Determination, I will never let you go. And grace too, a bit of testimonial doesn’t hurt.
From the song “An Inch An Hour” we have these witty lyrics:
“Coffee coloured ice and peeling birch bark
The sound of rushing water in the dark
Makes me feel the same way
An inch an hour, two feet a day
To move through life with very little else to say”
I realized at this point in my listening journey the absolute mastery of the Tragically Hip as poetic geniuses. An inch an hour, two feet a day. Come on, that’s brilliant even to a devout disciple of the metric system like me.
“Ahead by a Century” is an intense piece of listening pleasure. The double track vocals, the guitar jingling along with a steady backbeat that builds and builds, and then it goes electric and keeps building. This is a great song with great lyrics. “No dress rehearsal, this is our life.”
“Bobcaygeon” from the album Phantom Power is a powerhouse song that speaks about race, peace, power, love, nature and Willie Nelson. It also references constellations and stars which are a hobby of mine to watch with a telescope.
“I left your house this morning
About a quarter after nine
Could have been the Willie Nelson
Could have been the wine
When I left your house this morning
It was a little after nine
It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves one star at a time”
I also think Phantom Power has one of the best album covers of all time. The brilliant artwork on that sleeve design. I am also hoping for clear skies so I can see the constellations reveal themselves to me one star (or planet) at a time.
Music @ Work, other than the fact that it uses the “at” symbol it didn’t work for me. Music @ Work, not “Men at Work” who had a big hit some 20 years earlier with the song “Down Under”. Interestingly enough I would rather hear “Business as Usual” today instead of Music @ Work, I know that is going to raise the shackles with some people but I have to be honest and honestly, Music @ Work is an album that didn’t work for me. Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit home runs on every at-bat so I think its fair to say that not all albums are created equal either. Some are home runs, some limp around the bases and others strikeout.
The next album, in my listening, is In Between Evolution, which really grabs my attention. I don’t know what I can say about this album except that it is good from start to finish. Listen to it sing the praises of summer and about “Gus; The Polar Bear From Central Park”. How many bands have songs about polar bears eh?
I close out my listening marathon with the album Now for Plan A. This album debuted the lowest of any Hip album since their 1991 album “Road Apples”, which I don’t have yet but thanks to Apple Music I did listen to. They didn’t need a plan B because plan A worked out nicely.
There are a few songs that deserve honourable mention: “New Orleans is Sinking” and “Blow at High Dough”, which are both from the album Up to Here. I used to do a music appreciation group in an addiction recovery program and both of those songs where the most frequently requested and thus played in the group. I like to think that those music sessions offered some hope and maybe those songs brought a little joy into someone’s life that day.
I don’t have a physical copy of the Tragically Hips last album Man Machine Poem, but I did get to see their live show touring for the album. Tragically, it was also the farewell tour for the frontman and lead singer of the band, Gord Downie. It was a unique experience, to say the least. I have never seen or experienced an evening with the same emotion attached to it as that night. The crowd, the band, Gord, the music, the lyrics. It all came together and created a magical musical moment.
So there you have it, my marathon of Tragically Hip music. I hope you can enjoy listening to these selections as much as I did. They are not your average rock band, they are an icon of Canadian history and culture. They are The Tragically Hip.