Here we go… the debut EP that started it all! I’ll be chronologically reviewing the releases by The Tragically Hip every Sunday until they are ALL done… but I’m not alone! A long time Hip fan Sarca Sim (who also happens to be my wife) will be covering the albums along with me in tandem! So, be sure to check out what she has to say about The Tragically Hip’s debut EP from 1987 right here!
As for me, this was the first deep dive I’ve taken with it and I’m not sure if I would like it better than “meh” if did not feature the building blocks of the greatness to come.
I can’t knock the song writing too much even if it does stumble at times. Evelyn has an off putting catchy chorus with a odd Elvis-ish breakdown that doesn’t really fit in with what the band became. And I’m a Werewolf, Baby is downright goofy. GOOFY. But two odd-balls out of 8 debut tunes is forgivable.
For me, element that is missing is the swing and groove the rhythm section would come to own, and become a huge part of what made The Hip truly unique.
I’m going to expose how green I am when it comes to The Hip’s lore. While Sarah and I have been listening to this EP repeatedly lately, she told me about a woman who shares the same parking lot at work with her. This woman owns a Jeep with the vanity plate HIWAY GRL.
I thought, Really?… That song with the “Bang A Gong”-ish riff? I thought Highway Girl was a weak tune but maybe she likes it… or maybe she wanted to show off her Hip-skills with a deep cut for a vanity plate.
Then I find out that they released a live version that was released as the B-side for the single for Twist My Arm in 1991.
Now this is more like it! That Hip swing is there. I could see myself cranking this one in the car with a matching vanity license plate. Apparently this became a hit on Canadian radio. Well, I can assure you it wasn’t on Sudbury’s. Killing Time is another good example. All the lyrics and structure for a classic Hip tune are in tact but it is missing THAT groove and comes off as sterile.
I see online how some finger the mix as the culprit. I do admit that it isn’t great, but after pulling some videos from YouTube, I can conclude that this album did capture The Hip’s sound in 1987. By their next album, Up to Here, they had honed it all in.
Although the several tunes on here that I do like (I’ll add Small Town Bringdown and Cemetery Sideroad to Killing Time) have me bumping this up from “meh” to “OK”, this is probably one that I will not be spinning all that often. That is how important The Hip’s sound it to me!