Welcome to the 2nd installment of my reviews for the discography of The Tragically Hip! These are tandem reviews with my amazing wife, Sarah who is posting her own over at Caught Me Gaming. So be sure to check out her write up for Up To Here right here!
As for me, I wish I had a story of some kind to go with Up To Here but I really don’t. I was all about the heavy metal when it came out and I ignored the band until the late ’90s.
By then I of course recognized the album’s four tunes that Canadian radio broadcasted on a regular basis. Blow At High Dough, New Orleans Is Sinking, 38 Years Old, and Boots Or Hearts had all been imprinted on my brain prior to then, but listening to them within context of the rest of the album was a completely different experience.
What I mean is, Blow At High Dough sounds completely different to me as an album opener than a tune that is endlessly played on the radio. The soft playing at start before they all launch into the Hip groove… it is the perfect song in this setting. Perfect.
Heck, these songs even sound different on vinyl compared to the CD. I had just grabbed a vinyl copy a few years ago and I was floored by how well the Stones-ish Boots Or Hearts kicks off side two. I had felt it was a misplaced track previously, but it makes sense right here.
Up To Here isn’t only about the track placing though. Musically, the band had improved to a new level from their debut EP. Gord Downie showed signs of what his lyrics were to become before, but there are no silly songs like I’m a Werewolf Baby here. Gord goes full descriptive on even the deeper album cuts and anything goes. Like the high society girl that kills here abusive boyfriend in She Didn’t Know to the random morbid imagery in When The Weight Comes Down.
It has been guessed before that Gord’s lyrical and vocal style is part of the reason why this band had difficulty breaking in the US. If that is true, I’m glad that they never sacrificed one of their strongest assets. Gord knew how to paint a picture with words and if his art was to show humanity’s dark side, so be it.
I also have to give a shout out to
Bobby Rob Baker’s slide work. Be it with electricity on Blow at High Dough or with acoustics on Boots Or Hearts, it all sounds great. And in standard tuning with solid annotation, no less.
I guess my only complaint about Up To Here would be that Opiated doesn’t really make for a strong closer. It is a fine song, but it just peters out towards the end. I would have preferred a more satisfying conclusion. Other than that, a perfect album. Give it a spin if you haven’t already.