[Album Review] The Tragically Hip | Up To Here

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.

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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.

4.5/5

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49 comments

  1. I see what you mean about the last song petering the album out. I guess they can’t all be kickers like Back in Black! lol
    On second thought, I actually think Another Midnight would have made the perfect ending. A beautiful tune, with a nice guitar strum at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I see how listening to the album, versus hearing the same tracks on the radio can make a difference. It’s a different vibe listening to the same four tracks over and over again, versus listening to the final product and album as a whole.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly how I felt with AC/DC. Movies and commercials would play “Highway to Hell” and “Back in Black,” and I’d wonder if that was all they had! Overplayed songs are the worse!

        Liked by 1 person

              1. You think after all this time that radio would change their formula of playing stuff other than the hits, but nope!

                Then again AC/DC never changed their formular either, but that’s different!

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. I think Mike talked about how some radio stations used to have DJs play their picks, but yeah not anymore. Same thing with Spotify, they don’t recommend me good songs. They only recommend me the hits because it’s all computer generated, which is so annoying.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Oh yeah, and I hate how you can’t mike genres in the recommendations. I want to hear a mix of rock/blues/metal.

                      You used to have DJs that played whatever they thought was good. And you would discover so many artists and songs that way. Hasn’t been like that for a very long time.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Oh, right. Yeah, those guys have taken the name over. The only thing that comes close to old school DJs are some of the channels on satellite radio or Little Steven’s Underground Garage. But even those guys are locked in to a genre.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. I’d say the modern times ruined music too, but I can’t say that because I haven’t dived into many recent rock bands. I gave up on modern music because the pop music was irritating me (except for One Direction lol).

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. I always think far ahead though, what’s going to happen when Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Metallica retire? Then the younger generations who discover their music won’t be able to see them live.

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  3. I just found them in the last couple of years from Deke and another Canadian blogger I follow. I don’t know why they didn’t break in America. I’ve liked what I’ve heard from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good stuff, man – I like this one. Few tunes I’m not too keen on (I’ll Believe in You and Opiated – like you say, that one’s not a great closer), but I like this one enough to give it 3.5 or 4 J’s

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m coming in without any real knowledge of the band and their music. The review had me interested so I checked the album out and man I like it.

    Tracks like “Everytime You Go”, “She Didn’t Know” and “When The Weight Comes Down”.

    Liked by 1 person

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