[Album Review] The Tragically Hip | Road Apples

Welcome to the 3nd 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 Road Apples right here

As for me, Road Apples is the best example I know of a rock band who avoided a sophomore slump. Just as their previous album, Up To Here, this one contains four tracks that Sudbury’s rock station, Q92 loved to play several times a day throughout the ’90s. Little Bones, Twist My Arm, Long Time Coming, and Three Pistols were ingrained into my brain during shifts of pumping gas or heat treating pipe on the overnight shift. Three of those tunes are solid rockers while Long Time Coming became their first ballad to be a hit single here in Canada.

More important though is how Road Apples is a welcomed progression in the band’s song writing. As much as I like The Hip’s previous album Up To Here, I can admit how its tunes are a bit of the same flavour. The bouncy acoustic number, Boots Or Hearts being the only exception. There are plenty of those kinds of songs here, but the band does mix it up better.

Cordelia is a big one for me and I’m floored by how it was not a single. I like how it is layered with its mellow parts before slamming into its groove. And that slide from Rob Baker is killer. Definitely not your average Hip tune up until this point.

I also really like the Doors-y vibe of Luxury with its slow bass driven vibe and lyrics about a motel. Fight is another one that is a little different, which almost (but not quite) has a Stones-ish break up song quality to it.

Gord Downie’s lyrical style fully come into its own at this point too, and his words are loaded with Canadian references. They can range from the overt like on Three Pistols, a song about Tom Thomson, an early 20th century Canadian artist who died on a canoe trip right before The Group of Seven formed. Trust me, this is a big deal to Canadians.

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Then there is the downright subtle winks like the line in Long Time Running:

Well, well, it’s all the same mistake
Dead to rights and wide awake
I’ll drop a caribou
I’ll tell on you

“Drop a caribou” refers to the Canadian quarter, which has an image of a caribou on it. He is dropping it into a payphone. This is part of why his voice resonated so well with many Canadians. So many Canadian artist are encouraged to not be “too Canadian” so they can relate better to the American audience. The Hip didn’t seem to ever want to make that sacrifice.

Gord’s lyrics would often be purposely obtuse too. Many of the Hip’s songs have webpages dedicated to figuring out the meanings behind the lyrics, when they’re really open to interpretation. Although sometimes Gord would not hide behind ambiguity and wear the meaning of a song on his sleeve.

This is where we get to the the deeply personal Fiddler’s Green. Quite possibly the best song this band, and Gord Downie in particular, has ever written.

It is about Gord’s nephew who passed away while the band was recording the album. I haven’t read anymore into it because I feel everything else you need to know is said already in the song. I’m glad Gord reserves this style for when the topic was something truly special to him because in turn, it made it truly special for me.

5/5

Be sure to check out Sarah’s write up! The Hip series returns next Sunday with Fully Completely.

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Get more Hip in ya:

[EP Review] The Tragically Hip – Self Titled EP
[Album Review] Up To Here
[Album Review] Road Apples
[Album Review] Fully Completely
[Album Review] Day For Night
[Album Review] Trouble At The Henhouse
[Album Review] Live Between Us
[Album Review] Phantom Power
[Album Review] Music @ Work
[Album Review] In Violet Light
[Album Review] In Between Us
[DVD Review] That Night In Toronto
[Album Review] Yer Favourites
[Album Review] World Container
[Album Review] We Are the Same
[Album Review] Now for Plan A
[Blu-Ray Review] Bobcaygeon
[Album Review] Fully Completely Deluxe Edition
[Album Review] Man Machine Poem
[Blu-Ray Review] Long Time Running
[Blu-Ray Review] A National Celebration
[EP Review] Saskadelphia
[Book Review] The Never Ending Present | The Story Of Gord Downie And The Tragically Hip

24 comments

  1. Great stuff Man. The Hip were rolling on album two and I’m not talking that kind of rolling which I’m sure there was. I still remember buying this album the day it came out with Tbone and flipping that album cover and going where is “Crack My Spine Like A Whip”? Dang.. but over all this album is soooo strong…
    Hip was getting noticed big time as I told Sarca I was going to leave my Hip story here this week but guess what there is no story. lol
    Reason being they came here shortly after the release of Road Apples back to our university and tickets sold out so fast that it was a no go to catch em this time.
    Damn it….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Tragically Whip. Haha! Thanks Deke for giving me the idea for an S&M style tribute band. All female except me as the singer. As Spinal Tap said, as long as I’m the one getting hurt, then there’s no harm done. I can wear an assless gimp suit and give the drummer a whip so she can whip my ass whenever I get too close to the drum riser while the guitarist electrocutes my balls with a cattle prod. It’s the best way to hit the high notes.

      Like

  2. Man, two 5/5’s from you two. That is impressive. I love the little stories about the songs and now it will help me understand those Canadian references as they would’ve been completely over my head. Great write-up sir!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great album, man – this was the one where I understood what you folks liked so much about The Hip. I love the tone of the guitars… and they really lock into a groove on here and I’ve always thought there was a wee bit of the Stones in that groove.

    I have a fondness for Bring It All Back. Twist My Arm if a favourite… Gord has all the swagger of a Canadian Jagger… and good shout about the Doorsyness of The Luxury. Very Riders… Long Time Running always hit me like a Keef Richards number. Especially those he done with the Stones. Even the blues licks… and I really like The Last of the Unplugged Gems as a closer. Perfect, man.

    Anyhoo, I’m (mostly) in agreement with your 5/5.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to see us sharing some common ground for a change, lol

      Yeah, I was just reading how in the early days they cover a lot of Stones and are definitely an inspiration. Good on us for picking up on that connection!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve fallen way behind on the hip reviews – so I appreciate the ‘Get more hip in ya’ section to keep linking me to the next one!
    I adore Cordelia, an absolute all-timer for me. Every time I pick up an electric, chances are, it’s going to be one of the first few tunes I play.
    And I’m quite partial to the fittingly named ‘Last of the Unplucked Gems’ as well – as our mutual friend Deke calls them, a late album gem if there ever was one!

    Liked by 1 person

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