I’ve been a first-day buyer of this band since Road Apples, 1991. You do the math. It should come as no surprise, then, that I bought this album yesterday, on its release date.
And this review? I am writing as I listen. I wanted it visceral, in real time. Innumerable subsequent listens will surely reveal more down the road.
Writing this is bittersweet. I love the Hip, have since Up To Here, more than half a lifetime ago for me, now. Through all the amazing records over the years, and my own couple of times seeing them perform live, through always having them in my exercise iPod because they are nearest and dearest friends to me…
Ever since Gord Downie announced his terminal brain cancer I’ve been a bit out of sorts, as pertains to this band. They’re so important, so much a part of my (and all of our) fabric and life that the thought of them potentially ending is quite disorienting. And this is me, some guy in Ontario who loves the band, so I can’t imagine what the band is enduring. That this might be their last studio record… it’s a tough listen. But I have to. I want to. And here it is.
Nevermind how hard it was to get tickets to the gigs (fuck you, scalpers. Seriously, FUCK YOU). nevermind that. We embrace this document. This album is our shield and our weapon. We can bring it into our home, we can hear it a zillion times (I know I will). That is a power we wield, and it is ours. Thank you, Hip.
First off, the cover. It looks like a little kid falling through the air, but to me it looks like a kid standing on dark carpet, looking up, leaning back. I assume that no children were tossed in the air during the making of this cover… Nice mullet, anyway.
Next, the sound. It’s huge. I played it in the good headphones, and there’s a roomy airiness to it all, everything larger than life and right there in your face. You can almost smell the dust coming off the stacks as they thump. I LOVE IT.
Let’s give ‘er, shall we?
Opener track Man starts off garbled. It builds into a beautiful, slow and aching soundscape. The band is restrained, yet tight, and the whole thing feels wide open. And there’s Gord over the top of it all, inimitable. There’s still a bunch of weird vocal whatevers, but the drums hold it all together, loud and clear.
Up next is In A World Possessed By The Human Mind, which is the single, and it’s a great one. That driving beat, and Gord’s words flowing with that delivery that’s only his. Whether the band is holding back, or propelling loudly forward, this could’ve been on Trouble At The Henhouse and fit perfectly. I love it.
What Blue is right up front, nothing hiding in the back. A true Hip song, those guitars, those drums. Only one band in the world sounds like this, and it is our beloved Hip. This one is canon. When he says “I love you so much / it distorts my life / what drove and drives you drove and drives me too…” sounds like the words of every Hip fan everywhere. Right back atcha, Gord.
In Sarnia is another slow jammer, with Gordie wailing over top. The music is so loud, the lyrics almost drown out, which adds an ethereal affect to it all. This is Music @ Work-era Hip, to me, and it’s glorious.
Here, In The Dark starts off slow, but soon ramps up into the first faster rockier song on the album. Of course, it’s a million things more than that, but for all that it is it’s another amazing, perfect Hip tune. Even worthy of Road Apples, it’s that good. Goddamn I am hooked on this record and I still have 5 tracks to go.
Great Soul swings and rocks, and the guitars jab away in the back as Gord and the drums propel us forward. What a brilliant tune, a piece of art unto itself.
Tired As Fuck has a lift to it, it’s searching… those restless drums, those guitars… what a beautiful track. Again I hear Henhouse, maybe In Violet Light. And believe me, as a fan of all the records as a whole, when I start saying it sounds like it could’ve come from one record or another, it’s a friggin’ compliment. What a track.
Hot Mic builds into a menacing stomp, and when it explodes it’s restrained but still among the rocking-est stuff I’ve heard so far. Those pounding drums, that throbbing bass line… fucking brilliance. It’s like they’re right here in the room with me, loud and clear and playing that “powerful stuff.” Holy hell. This oughta be a single.
Ocean Next starts us off with acoustic guitar gorgeous, then Gord’s vocals (with effects on them) come in and it’s a whole new ball game. Another slower track, it’s beautiful. When that bass thumps, it hits you right in the chest.
Machine has a steady beat, prominent hi-hat, and when it hits the main bit, the bluesy rock guitar and this whole sonic thing they have rocks so fucking hard that this track is a favourite already. The middle bit, the part that builds, filled me with so much happiness and hope and joy that I got up out of my seat and strained the headphone cord. And as the electronics die out to end the track, here we are.
Just like that, it’s over way too soon. The album, and (perhaps) this band as we know it. I’m adrift, honestly. I love this record. It is a GREAT Hip record, and I know it will stand up so very well indeed in the discography. There’s a part of me that wants more, though, the part of me that wants the Hip to never ever go away, to always be there, performing and creating and being themselves. And in a way, I know they will always be there. They always have been.
Let’s assume that Gord’s health was fine, and this Hip record was being released. I would feel the same about it in that (preferable) scenario as I do knowing what we know. This is an immediate, loveable, rocking, tasteful, experimental, perfect record. The Hip have outdone themselves on this album. If this is their last record, it’s a great one. I feel like I’ll only love it more as time goes on, too. It feels like one that each listen rewards that little bit more. I’m OK with that.
Much love, power, and support to Gord and the band in these times. It feels like understatement to say we wish you all the best. And thanks for this record. It’s a beaut.
For more essential reading, check out Boppinsblog’s excellent review of this record right here!