[EP Review] The Tragically Hip | Self Titled

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!

2.5/5

25 comments

  1. Absolutely – it’s somewhat strange hearing the studio version of Highway Girl after hearing the ‘double suicide’ version.
    A friend of mine & I used to quote it frequently, “She likes to decorate her apartment in the Santa Fé tradition – I told her it was dated but I see more of the world than she does!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Geez I don’t know what I like better your ratings on records or your Bond Laid A Rater?
    Great writeup and fair enough as they all can’t be winners right?
    Here’s what I left at Sarca’s place…

    Crazy to think that me and Tbone went to Crocks on a Saturday night in Feb/88 and there was this band from Kingston called the Tragically Hip.
    I had no idea who they were but a girl I was seeing, seen the add posted at the College at the time and suggested we go so that was the plan.
    Then a snowstorm hit on that Saturday and she didn’t want to go. So I called Tbone on the landline lol and he was in..
    Amazing and as Frank has told me that the Hip drove straight from NYC to Tbay and were starved so Frank made them grilled cheese as the Hip played 3 nights at Crocks to as Frank puts it 75-80 people tops over the 3 nights.
    I bought this on cassette tape from one of the guys in the Hip (have no idea who) but me and Tbone were both impressed with the live show as even today we still talk about Downie jumping on Langlois’s back during ‘I’m A Werewolf, Baby”..
    Good times and when did Kev get so serious with the lyrics lol
    A great memory of time to say we saw a band that went from nothing to something pretty mega..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great write-up Kevin! I told your wife that I am going to follow along and listen to each album as long as it is on Apple Music. I will learn about the band along the way and I will see what all the fuss is about with these guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not one I remember much about, but I’ll be giving it a listen later (I dare say the fact I don’t remember much about it suggests that it probably falls in the ‘mnah’ bracket – is that between meh and okay?).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just wrapping up listening and yeah, I’d say your review and rating is fair. There’s nothing here that makes me think “yasss!”… but nothing that I would skip.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not really familiar with all their music.

    So as you post i will be checking em out on Spotify. “Killing Time” is my favorite at this point in time. The riff to kick it off made me pick up the guitar to learn it.

    They remind me of Australian band Cold Chisel who played rock but in an Australian way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good take Mars (as usual). I have to agree with you. I got this after ‘Up To Here’ sold me. The live cut above would be a good gauge for this album. Much better live because that’s what they were coming out of the gate, a bar band with a hell of a lot more. Over to Sarca.

    Liked by 1 person

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