Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playlist Week Day 2 -- The Tragically Hip

[This weekend, I got the new issue of Rolling Stone, which included a bunch of specific playlists like Bono's David Bowie playlist or Ozzy Osbourne's Beatles playlist. So, for this week, I'll be doing five playlists of ten songs per artist/band each day with some brief comments on the song. All songs in chronological order.]

Today, it's the Tragically Hip, a Canadian rock band that's developed the status of the Canadian rock band. Every album of theirs since their first album has been #2 or #1 on the charts (more likely to be #1 with only three failing to hit that mark, while their first LP only reached #13). It's just some good rock music. My list is skewed towards their early albums a bit and I don't subscribe to the idea that they began to suck around the time of Phantom Power, but it's hard to deny the quality of their early material. Their later material isn't as catchy always, isn't as easy to get into... isn't as memorable at times. And listeners of the Splash Page Podcast will know the lead singer of the band, Gord Downie, for the bit of his song "We're Hardcore" that we use to kick the show off.

1. "Blow at High Dough" (1989) from Up to Here: The first song on the first Tragically Hip LP and it's about shooting a porn flick in a small town. It's a rocking song that starts off slow, but gives a great first impression of the band's sound. When you figure out/learn what the song is about, it's hard not to laugh at times. I do like the drumming.

2. "Long Time Running" (1991) from Road Apples: A quiet, moody song. When I hear this song, I picture Gord Downie or someone slowly walking down a dark street, wearing a suit with the tie undone, bottle of beer in his hand... it's that kind of song.

3. "At the Hundredth Meridian" (1992) from Fully Completely: A cool rock song. I love the line "I seem to remember every single fucking thing I know." Just a song that hits on that leve you dig. You know?

4. "Wheat Kings" (1992) from Fully Completely: A song, at least partly, about David Milgaard and his wrongful conviction for rape and murder. A slow, quiet song that has some great singing. Maybe it's the Canadian in me, but the line "Late-breaking story on the CBC..." appeals to me.

5. "Nautical Disaster" (1994) from Day for Night: Actually, I'd probably recommended the live version off Live Between Us with Downie prefacing the song with talk of a movie adaptation that's kind of funny. This is an odd song about a dream of a life as a lighthouse keeper. There's a nice build. The Hip does good slow builds that turn into big drums and lots of rawk.

6. "Ahead by a Century" (1996) from Trouble at the Henhouse: Probably my favourite Hip song. A mellow sort of song with a rock edge. "Disappointing you's getting me down" became my personal shame of a mantra for the past couple of years.

7. "Bobcaygeon" (1998) from Phantom Power: A story song. The video for this song is a completely literal interpretation of the lyrics and works really well. The way the verses repeat themselves is good.

8. "Fireworks" (1998) from Phantom Power: Another song with a line that stands out: "You said you didn't give a fuck about hockey / Well I never saw someone say that before." So Canadian and can't help but make me laugh. And I'm not a big hockey fan. I just know what a line like that means. The song is about not knowing what marriage and relationships are really about; spending too much time together and things turning into a weird cold war.

9. "It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken" (2002) from In Violet Light: The interplay of the music and Downie's vocals is startling. There's a real orchestral vibe to the way the instruments are played, while Downie just gives it his all. Downie is underrated at times, I think, as a singer. He's very good at emotion and mood.

10. "Now the Struggle Has a Name" (2009) from We are the Same: The title of the album comes from a line in this song. It seems like a song that sums up where the Hip are. Their album after In Violet Light was called In Between Evolution, suggesting that they thought they were on the brink of change, but, here, they seem to be reconciling themselves with the fact that no matter how much they try to grow, there's a core identity to band that holds them back. But, it's also that the name of the struggle is 'We are the Same.' How does a band that's been around for 20 years and seen massive success change and grow without causing their fans to turn on them? Oddly, this is all my reading of the song since none of that is in here. But, the song brings out those ideas.

Tomorrow: the Barenaked Ladies.

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