Welcome to the 16th 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 Now For Plan A right here!
As for me, this was my first time listening to any of Now For Plan A and I was home within the first few notes. This is the sound. This is the Hip.
At Transformation is the album’s first single and its a rockin’ album opener. It has that gritty bar band sound from the band’s early albums, even if it could stand to have Gords vocals a little higher in the mix. After the band’s previous album We Are The Same‘s overproduced sound, this was refreshing to hear. It has been a long time since a Hip song grabbed on the first listen.
I’m going to sound like a broken record for the rest of the album. Once again, it took a few spins before it began to talk to me. At first, I thought Now For Plan A was easily the weakest since the debut EP. By Thursday I was picking my favourites and cursing the shortness of some of its songs. This is the shortest of any of the Hip’s albums clocking in at only 39 minutes.
There are two tracks out of the album’s eleven that I’m lukewarm on. I do like most of We Want to Be It but that repeated “Drip, Drip, Drip” lyric makes me cringe a little. It sounds like Sesame Street telling kids to be sure to turn off faucets. The guitar riff for About This Map has a sweet U2-ish vibe but the lyrical map analogies feel a little too on the nose.
Really, those are the only two negatives I have.
Canadian artist Sarah Harmer appears on two tunes. Unlike We Are The Same where the guest artist took over, she is woven in nicely to enhance Gord’s vocals. This is the way to do it. The Lookahead is a bright, feel good tune that only lasts 2:26. It could have went on for more. She is also on the title track, Now For Plan A. A gorgeous tune that puzzles me how it was not a single. With its Neil Young and Crazy Horse like guitar strumming and sweeping “Nothing short of everything” chorus, I think it could have sold a few more copies.
Man Machine Poem took the longest of all of the songs to grow on me. I thought it was a little too brooding at first, but now I read the lyrics as someone being consoled during some sort of medical treatment:
But it is a thin win
What works on monkeys? Some experimental new treatment? Is the “thin win” an agreement for taking the treatment? Or did it not work? Gord making my grey matter boil over again.
Streets Ahead is a solid, driving rocker and was the album’s 2nd single. The bass fills in this song are EXACTLY why I don’t like the strings on We Are The Same. I want to hear a Hip member do the fills! The song is better for it. The guitars do sound a little over modulated though, but I guess they were going for a garage rock vibe.
I love The Modern Spirit and it opens side 2 on the vinyl. This one lets the ol’ bar band roots out. It helps that I can hear a little bit of AC/DC’s Rock ‘n Roll Singer in the riff! Take Forever is a bit of an average tune for the Hip but its groove makes it a solid album track. Done and Done is the Hips version of a break up song. I’ll take it over any of Taylor Swift’s.
Goodnight Attawapiskat closes the album with a growl. This is another song with that Neil Young and Crazy Horse swing, but guitars sound way meaner. Perfect landing.
Now For Plan A was released during The Hip’s lowest point in popularity since the pre-Road Apples years. The album did reach gold status in Canada, but it took the longest for any of the Hip’s to do so since Up to Here and only sold 12,000 copies within its first week. Less than half of what World Container and We Are the Same accomplished.
So, many of you may have missed or passed this one by. Heck, I just dropped the needle on it for the first time last Sunday and it took a while for it to get its hooks in me. Once it had though, it did not let go. You might want to see if it will do the same for you.
Be sure to check out Sarah’s write up! The Hip series returns next Sunday (Maybe) with the Blu-ray Bobcagyeon.
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