A-ways back, I did a whole series of all the Tragically Hip albums… except for this one. Why? It hadn’t been released yet, for inclusion in that series. I did Man Machine Poem when it came out, but for some reason never threw this one into the mix. It was Master Chart-Builder and blogger extraordinaire Geoff at 1001albumsin10years that pointed out my oversiiiiiight! So of course I promised I’d get it done… and sat on it… and now here it finally is, in the IOU Series.
It’s weird to write about this now, knowing what we do. But I’ll do my best to give this an honest go-through…
At Transformation was, of course, the big single and I’m sure you already know it well. It’s a decent track with a driving beat that I’m sure will stand up in the pile of singles as a solid representative of late-period Hip. Man Machine Poem is next, interesting now that we know that it’s the title of the next record… a great mid-tempo Hip track, a feeling of searching and hoping, of lift over adversity via satisfying guitars…
The Lookahead (featuring Sarah Harmer on backing vocals) soars and floats and keeps that rocking but gentle feel. This could’ve been a track on World Container, if that helps you place the feel. We Want To Be It, with its haunting “drip drip drip” repetitions has got to be about his wife’s time in the hospital with her own cancer fight, which makes the track even more harrowing. Don’t let the jaunty beat fool you.
Streets Ahead, the second single, picks up the pace considerably, and oh man would this one ever have been great live. It’s the type of Hip track that would achieve lift-off, for sure. You know the ones I mean… Now For Plan A is just a gorgeous track, atmospheric and roomy (and Sarah Harmer returns on backing vocals). Gordie even knows it’s good as he starts the lyrics with “Yeah, I know I know I know…” Haha awesome. This track is an album highlight.
The Modern Spirit is another Hip rocker to which you can’t help but tap your feet. It has a sassy bounce that’s damn infectious. About This Map is one I keep coming back to, for its glorious groove and the way all of the pieces are put together in that way that only the Hip can do it. I listen along, wondering if this is the same map that he can’t believe you dotted… Another album highlight, for me.
Take Forever lays down a solid rock riff (pure Hip, of course), and then drives it forward with strength and a restless energy. Another one that would be perfect in concert. Done And Done meanders gorgeously, in no hurry but still holding your rapt attention as the tune unfolds and unwinds.
Goodnight Attawapiskat rocks bluesily and hardly seems like a goodnight lullaby at all. But it’s pure Hip, another full-on, no holds barred track that tastefully covers all their usual bases while still sounding unique. It’s also a good lesson about bad history. The electronic wash noise at the end seems to hint at more…
This is a short record, at under 40 minutes. But its 11 tracks are so packed with quality moments and music that it feels much fuller. I know I loved this one back in 2012, but it tends to be a wee bit neglected in the rotation these days, so I am super-thrilled to hear it again now. And guess what? I loved it all over again.
Superb Hip record. Thanks for the reminder, Geoff!