Tragically Hip: The Series – Trouble At The Henhouse (1996)
Building on the experimental mood of Day For Night, Henhouse is like a pile of wonderfully-wrapped presents under the Creativity Tree, each one just waiting for you to carefully open it and spend some time with it. None of these are songs that you’ll play with for an hour and either lose interest in them or break them. These are keepers.
What the listener immediately notices on this effort is the considerably slower pacing of the first several tracks, almost as though each song is a love note intended only for you. Granted, there are faster moments, but they are cradled in the lulling arms of instrumental beauty and care, and it’s not until a deep cut that things pick up considerably. It may also be another raised middle finger to all the Molson meatheads in the crowd. I’m lovin’ it, either way.
Continuing their knack for epic opening tracks, Gift Shop greets the world anew so gracefully it shines. Springtime In Vienna is simply gorgeous. Ahead By A Century, forgive me, makes me laugh every time I hear it now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great, deceptively simply tune, but I had an ex-girlfriend who said that this track made her want to “rip out her eyeballs and throw them” at Gordie. She couldn’t stand his voice. Notice, if you will, that she’s an ex. Anyway.
Kurt Cobain gets reincarnated in Don’t Wake Daddy, and Flamenco is achingly passionate. Then, finally, the gears shift quickly and the band tears a hole in the 700 Ft. Ceiling. Butts Wigglin’ and Apartment Song carry on with the introspection and thoughtfulness, then Coconut Cream lets ‘er rip one more time. The lyrics are silly, but the song is just so damn catchy… Let’s Stay Engaged slink-shuffles awesomely, Sherpa’s slow build climbs a mountain of its own, and Put It Off follows that trend, going from gentle to menacing over its course. It also name-checks Love Tara, which forever endears it to me. What a great way to end an album.
A lot of people probably didn’t like this one, as evidenced by its being available so cheaply no matter where you go. But, once again, I declare that the point has been missed if this is your line of thinking. This record is brilliant. It’s not the same as the others, that’s obvious. Instead, happily, it’s another facet of this band’s maturation process, dabbling and trying out new things. I say power to ’em. They can make whole new records that sound different and yet still sound wholly like themselves. So few can do that. I hope they make a million more.