[Album Review] The Tragically Hip | We Are The Same

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!

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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.

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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

40 comments

  1. Where else you going to Find the words…’Crosby, Stills and Gord” and Aero-Hip in a post!! lol Man this is the closet thing to you coming off the rails I have ever read from you since I started following your stuff years ago.
    Keep it up!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, balls. I really get frustrated too when really pretty wonderful songs are just swallowed up by poor or questionable arrangements and production. Where the band or artist’s personality just isn’t there. Anyhoo, I genuinely don’t think I ever really listened to this one, so I’ll need to give it a whirl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would say more frustrated than worked up. I’m mostly trying to make Sarah laugh.

      I find the orchestra on S&M to be unnecessary like the strings are for a few songs on this album. I really can’t say if S&M is good or bad. I just don’t care for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it worked lol!

        It wouldn’t be S&M if it didn’t have an orchestra, but I get your point. I’d be fine if they didn’t do S&M all together. I mostly like it because they played stuff from Reload (the album after Load).

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I like Load more than Reload, but that’s my personal opinion. To be honest, I developed mixed feelings about Metallica after I heard Sea of Tranquility talk about how much they don’t like them anymore (except for those earlier albums). Did you check out Hardwired to Self-Destruct too?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yeah, Hardwire is half good. Especially those first three songs but it loses steam quickly. There is nothing wrong with liking the Loads. I’ve tried to get into them but they’re just not for me. I think I like Fuel but that is about it.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Oh yeah no. I still dig Load (and Reload), what Sea of Tranquility just made me not go further with their catalog cause I only have a certain amount of money to spend on albums, so I better not get any stinkers.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. That’s true. I streamed the AC/DC albums before I bought them and it worked out for me. I need advice though, I barely have enough time to listen to the albums I already have because of either blogging or youtube. What would you suggest I do?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. I’m in the same boat. So much music, so little time!

                      I’ve been making time every night to throw on a few records while I surf the web, read blogs, do some writing. It seems to be working out. I’ve bough a bunch of albums recently and have listen to all but one already. You just have to make the time, I guess. But there is no rush to get to everything. You’ll get to it whenever the time is right. Next time your in the mood for Metallica, you can check out Death Magnetic then.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Yeah, so much music that deserves so much more attention.

                      Oh, that’s a good idea. I’m glad that method is working for you. While working on a blog post (including photos) today, I got through five albums (including bonus discs) and I was impressed by how much music I listened to in one day. Do you ever feel like you’re not connecting with the music, though, if your mind is focused on something else? That’s always been my worry with that method.

                      When I had more time back in my tween years, I listened to my albums when I had time to read the songbooks at the same time. I don’t have much time for that anymore sadly.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Yeah, I rarely give an album my full attention unless I am reviewing it. I do connect with the music on some level. You be surprised how getting up regularly to flip or put on a new LP snaps you back into the music. But I doubt I am fully absorbing it like I would by turning everything else off.

                      I do get a lot of music in during my commute to. I have a 70 minute round trip drive so that is usually and album and a half.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. I guess I’ll never know until I try. It wouldn’t hurt to make more time for the albums I have. Sorry for the questions, I’m just interested in hearing how everyone makes time for their music, so that I can incorporate what they do into my own life if I think it’ll help me.

                      Oh wow, a 70 minute drive? I think you mentioned in your vaccine post that you get up early for work.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    5. Round trip, 70 minutes. 35 minutes each way. Yeah, I have to go into work anywhere from 4:30AM to 7:00AM depending on the day. The joys of working in television.

                      No worries, I enjoy answering your questions!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    6. Oh that’s what round trip means. 35 minutes to work and 35 minutes back home. Got it! You must have discipline going to bed early and waking up early (earlier depending on the day), but I guess that’s the media business.

                      Thanks so much.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    7. It’s actually good that you know how to get up early. I used to do that for school, but I’m slowly growing out of that habit by going to bed late and sleeping as late as I can.

                      Liked by 1 person

  3. Neat idea with the dual rating system here – the songs are indeed magnificent (Morning Moon & The Depression Suite especially), it would have been interesting to hear what they sound like with just the 5 of them playing

    Liked by 1 person

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