Tragically Hip

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Up To Here , 6/10
Road Apples , 6/10
Fully Completely , 5/10
Day For Night , 5/10
Trouble At The Henhouse , 5/10
Phantom Power , 4/10
Music @ Work , 4/10

Formed in Ontario (Canada) in 1983 by Gordon Downie (vocals), Bobby Baker (guitar), Paul Langlois (guitar), Gord Sinclair (bass) and Johnny Fay (drums), the Tragically Hip surfaced with a bland variant of roots-rock that often quoted Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and REM.

Their self-titled debut EP, The Tragically Hip (MCA, 1987), is still raw and energetic. The catchy power-pop of Evelyn, the folk-rock of Small Town Bringdown and the blues-rock of Killing Time set the pace for the rest of their career.

Up To Here (MCA, 1989) continued in that vein, but the sources are better disguised. Despite the filler, at least the bizarre New Orleans Is Sinking and the funky Blow At High Dough are prime Hip ballads, catchy and tortured at the same time.

The band matured with Road Apples (MCA, 1991). Bring It All Back and Twist My Arm (an almost ZZ Top-ish boogie) lead the pack of songs that are both forceful and tuneful. The sequence is broken by a few atmospheric, mournful ballads (Long Time Running, Fiddler's Green, Little Bones). The playing is tight and varied. The melodies are mostly subtle but effective. The singer's clever (and frequently obscure) wordplay is half of the show.

Fully Completely (MCA, 1992) was a minor work, that mostly transitioned the band from their rawer, Stones-oriented, phase to their sweeter, REM-oriented, phase, but nonetheless contained Fully Completely, The Wherewithal and especially Courage, one of their most complex and emotional songs. The macabre aspect of the singer's metaphysics peaked with Locked In The Trunk Of A Car (a surreal ode to serial killers) and At The Hundredth Meridian (an epic ode to the prairie as an ideal burial place).

Day For Night (Atlantic, 1994) is virtually a concept on death. Grace Too, The Inevitability of Death and Scared obsessively analyze the subject from more and more disturbing angles. The Nautical Disaster is another peak of their art.

Trouble At The Henhouse (Atlantic, 1996) starts with a poker of songs that virtually constitute a suite: Ahead By A Century, Springtime in Vienna, Gift Shop and Don't Wake Daddy.

By the time Phantom Power (Sire, 1998) was released, Downie's singing (and, in general, talent for storytelling) had become the main attraction. The band followed him faithfully along rock and roll numbers (Poets) and ballads (Bobcaygeon) but sounded somehow uncomfortable of his ever expanding role.

Music @ Work (London, 2000) is their less exciting work. While still warm and soulful, even the best songs (My Music At Work and The Bastard) have lost their psychological power. Julie Doiron duets with Downie in The Completists, Toronto #4, and As I Wind Down The Pines.

Tragically Hip's singer-songwriter Gordon Downie died in 2017 of brain cancer.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Matteo Gentile)

Formati in Ontario (Canada) nel 1983 da Gordon Downie (voce), Bobby Baker (chitarra), Paul Langlois (chitarra), Gord Sinclair (basso) e Johnny Fay (batteria), i The Tragically Hip emersero con una blanda variante di roots rock che spesso citava Neil Young, i Rolling Stones, Tom Petty e i R.E.M. Il loro omonimo EP di debutto, The Tragically Hip (MCA, 1987), ancora crudo ed energico. L'accattivante power pop di Evelyn , il folk rock di Small Town Bringdown e il blues rock di Killing Time hanno segnato il loro incedere per il resto della loro carriera. Up To Here (MCA, 1989) proseguito in tale ottica, ma i riferimenti sembravano meglio mascherati. Nonostante tutti i riempitivi, almeno la bizzarra New Orleans Is Sinking e il funky di Blow At High Dough sono ballads hip alla moda, accattivanti e seviziate allo stesso tempo. La band maturata con Road Apples (MCA, 1991). Bring It Back e Twist My Arm (un boogie alla ZZ Top) guidano la lista di tracce, che sono sia crude sia melodiche. La sequenza interrotta da alcune ballads atmosferiche e malinconiche ( Long Time Running , Fiddler's Green , Little Bones ). L'esecuzione a un tempo tesa e varia. Le melodie sono per lo pi tenui ma efficaci. Il gioco di cantilene cerebrale (e spesso oscuro) del cantante occupa met dello show. Fully Completely (MCA, 1992) stato un lavoro minore, che ha principalmente spostato la band dalla loro fase pi grezza, orientata agli Stones, a quella pi dolce, che si rivolge ai R.E.M., ma comunque conteneva Fully Completely , The Wherewithal e soprattutto Courage , una delle loro canzoni pi complesse ed emotive. L'aspetto macabro della metafisica del cantante ha raggiunto il picco con Locked In The Trunk Of A Car (un'ode surreale agli assassini seriali) e At The Hundredth Meridian (un'ode epica alla prateria come luogo di sepoltura ideale). Day For Night (Atlantic, 1994) sostanzialmente un concept mortuario. Grace Too , The Inevitability of Death e Scared analizzano ossessivamente il soggetto da angolazioni sempre pi inquietanti. Nautical Disaster un altro picco della loro arte. Trouble At The Henhouse (Atlantic, 1996) inizia con un poker di canzoni che praticamente costituiscono una suite: Ahead By A Century , Springtime in Vienna , Gift Shop e Don't Wake Daddy . Quando Phantom Power (Sire, 1998) fu pubblicato, il canto di Downie (e, in generale, il suo talento per lo storytelling ) era diventato l'attrazione principale. La band lo ha seguito fedelmente lungo i suoi numeri rock and roll ( Poets ) e le sue ballads ( Bobcaygeon ) ma sembrava in qualche modo a disagio per il suo ruolo in continua espansione. Music @ Work (London, 2000) il loro lavoro meno entusiasmante. Anche se sono ancora calorose e piene di sentimento, anche le migliori canzoni ( My Music At Work e The Bastard ) hanno perso il loro potere psicologico. Julie Doiron duetta con Downie in The Completists , Toronto # 4 e As I Wind Down The Pines . Tragicamente il cantautore hip Gordon Downie morto nel 2017 di cancro al cervello.

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