The Tragically Hip: Trouble at the Henhouse
Purchased: The Hock Shop
Key Tracks: Flamenco, Springtime in Vienna, Ahead by a Century, 700 Ft. Ceiling, Apartment Song, Sherpa, Put it Off
Last summer, we Canehjins collectively watched the final performance by the Tragically Hip, a band as Canadian as poutine drizzled in maple syrup and served on a beaver’s tail at a Lacrosse tournament. Truly the end of an era, this concert seems to have brought the Hip fan in a lot of people who may have previously dismissed them. Of their fairly vast discography, Trouble at the Henhouse, their 1996 album (has it really been 21 years?!) is best known for the singles Ahead by a Century and Gift Shop, but there is a great deal more musical richness to be mined from this sunburnt orange album. The Hip don’t sound all that much like many other bands, but there is a clear Stones influence in their playing. Drummer Johnny Fay plays like Charlie Watts with bricks in his limbs; and while Rob Baker is clearly the lead guitarist, his playing never overshadows any of the other musicians. They are truly a band, despite the slightly mad presence of the massively charismatic Gord Downie (God bless this wordsmith). The songs on this album fluctuate between uptempo muscular rock, to introspective downbeat almostblues to stunningly lovely (yet so totally unique that you’re not quite ready to call them) ballads. Flamenco, the fifth track on the album, is a gentle ode to the stubborn complications of others; how relationships often balk at unwillingness to try something new. Only Downie could deliver a line like “Walk like a matador, don’t be chickenshit and turn breezes into rivulets” and make the nonsense make sense. Easily my favorite song on the album. And while the Hip certainly aren’t afraid to flex their rock muscularity (700 ft. Ceiling, Butts Wiggling), they are at their most compelling when they slow things down and mine a groove. The closing tracks “Sherpa” and “Put it Off” both slow boil the listener into a daze, shutting down the proceedings with wide eyes in the dark, searching for answers all while on a Sherpa high. For a long time, this was the only album by the Hip that I owned. To me, it said everything that needed to be said…I have only relatively recently discovered the error of my ways. Sorry bout that, eh?