Welcome to the 15th 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 We Are The Same right here!
As for me, this was my first time listening to any of We Are The Same and I found a lot to love on it.
For one, Gord Downie is at his most prolific. At least for me. I’ve been enjoying his quirky, deep, thoughtful, and inspiring lyrics throughout this series. For this round, he took his poetry to another level as he hit topics that connected with me. Depression, reclusiveness, and self doubt are reflected on and not in that self-centered ’90s grunge way.
There is frustration in his words as he argues with, learns, and understands not only his situation but others as well. There is a sense of uselessness as he offers assurance by saying “those little things that don’t make anyone feel better”. He relates to another as they are “going through something” because he is too. My god, this is every day for me!
Compassion and concern comes though as he delivers the words over a gorgeous vocal melodies. None better than the 9 minute opus, Depression Suite. This song is almost at prog rock level with its tempo changes and mood swings, and it flies by! It feels like a 2 minute song.
So, here is the part in the review where I shifts gears. I wish it was all sunshine and rainbows, but…
Morning Moon – Beautiful tune. Love it. But who are these guys singing back up? Did Gord drop out of the Hip and join Crosby, Stills, and Gord?
Honey, Please – I like the Tom Petty vibe for this one and it features Barenaked Ladies member Kevin Hearn’s accompaniment on piano and Hammond organ. It is fine, but no Hip members could contribute instead? At least Rob Baker is given plenty of space to shine as he rips an excellent solo.
The Last Recluse – Another one that is heavy on the Kevin Hearn contributions. This time it is an accordion floating around with the melody. It is all OK until we get to the chanting towards the end. WTF? Why is this here?
Coffee Girl – Johnny Fay makes the short drum loop sound as naturally as he possibly can, but it sound robotic. The trumpet solo is fine, but I rather be listening to Rob Baker’s guitar.
Now the Struggle Has a Name – Nothing like a string section that adds nothing to the song. I’m getting Metallica S&M vibes.
The Depression Suite – Brilliant lyrics! Brilliant! Ruined by more unnecessary strings. Da faaaaq! Get rid of them!
The Exact Feeling – This one is the worst offender. What is this? A talk box? The drum beat from Aerosmith’s Jaded? Ja-ja-jaded? It closely copies Sweet Emotion‘s sweeping opening with a rattle sound too. “Aero-hip” can piss right off.
Queen of the Furrows – I like how it sounds a bit like Zeppelin’s Ramble On and I believe that is Paul Langlois on the mandolin. So, this one gets an A+.
Speed River – The best mixed tune on the album. A hint of Hammond organ, the background vocals are tweaked but not overdone, and I can hear my band. Baker has a strong solo and Fay has some great drum fills. It swings like how a Hip tune should swing. If only the whole album was like this…
Frozen in My Tracks – Woahhhh-ooooooah! What is this? An ’80s hair band? Good song, but that part? Barf. Baker gets some overdrive on the solo for this one, so that’s a nice part.
Love Is a First – The love shack is a little ol’ place where… we can get together! Seriously, this was mixed for the B-52s, not The Hip.
Country Day – Strings, backing vocals, are all gross. Do I hear a banjo? Should I be paddling faster now? What the fuck?
To be clear, I don’t hate the production on We Are The Same. I do dislike how it completely buries the band under layers of bloat. It makes for a frustrating listen at times because the songs are so darn good!
And, you might be surprised to hear this, but I don’t blame producer Bob Rock. The production does bear the mark of his past work, and he likely introduced ideas to the band, but we all know any final decision was Gord Downie’s. When played live, the stings, trumpet, and accordion bits were all subbed by keyboards. It shows me that these additions were set to be integral parts of the songs.
As a result, We Are The Same comes off to me as a Gord Downie solo project. There is nothing wrong with that in of itself, but I want to hear the Tragically Hip play on Tragically Hip albums.
The songs: 5/5
The arrangements: 1/5
Be sure to check out Sarah’s write up! The Hip series returns next Sunday (Maybe) with Now For Plan A.
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