Tragically Hip: The Series – Up To Here (1989)
Most bands, on their sophomore effort, retread what they did the first time around. Sure, they might get the benefit of better production and promotion after the first disc generated enough interest to warrant such attention. Sadly, a lot of those records die slow deaths and, usually, so do most bands in that situation. You only hear about the successful bands, but there were millions that fizzled out to allow those few to step into your awareness.
On Up To Here, their second album, the Hip blasted away all expectations. This is an album so packed full of great songs, both the hits and those that should have been, that the usual circumstances, as noted above, do not even apply to it. As grunge loomed on the horizon, the Hip stayed focused on their signature sound, and it payed off huge. It’s a cohesive effort, full of emotion and storytelling, blues and rock, and it has the grit of life in this country under its nails. The leap in maturity from The Tragically Hip to Up To Here is obvious.
Everyone by now, surely, knows New Orleans Is Sinking, Boots Or Hearts, 38 Years Old and Blow At High Dough, especially if you’ve listened to your local rawk radio station (you know, the one named after some animal) with any regularity. That’s fine. But dig deeper into this record, and you’ll find equally worthy songs of love, murder, angst and hard work. When The Weight Comes Down, Trickle Down, She Didn’t Know, Opiated, Everytime You Go, all are stellar tracks of (by now) classic Hip. That sound is emerging all over this disc. You know the sound I mean.
The advantage of writing this now, so many years since its release, is the ability to hold it up in the light and know that that Hip seed was still germinating even then, in the midst of such invigorating songwriting. Downie’s poetry was forcing itself more to the fore, with words that sometimes trip on each other, or rhyme just because it was assumed that they should, but the kernel is there, the ability undeniable. The band was always tight, but here they go past competence and into pure creation, a unit so in tune that the future could only be more and more amazing. Of course, we all have the proof of this in our current record collections.
I wasn’t fortunate or savvy enough to get in on the ground floor with this band. This was the first record of theirs that I heard, and I went back and got its predecessor immediately. So if these paragraphs seem to gush a little more than they should, understand that my subjectivity was born with this album, and it has only grown stronger with each successive record.