Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I've been waiting anxiously for the past number of weeks. Why? Because The Tragically Hip's first ever box set Hipeponymous was slated for a November 1, 2005 release. Naturally, this being November 2, you can bet your ass I hauled my sorry carcass down to the nearest HMV to buy myself a copy yesterday, the day of, as soon as I woke up at noon, which is much earlier than I am used to getting out of bed.

I have to say that I am quite partial to The Hip. There's something that just makes listening to them a particularly Canadian thing to do. I've been a big fan of their work ever since I heard the opening bars of "Grace, Too" for the first time, which for those of you in the know, was actually not the very beginning of the band's rise to fame. I was quite late getting on The Hip boat, but now that I'm here I'm quite comfortable.

I've been fortunate enough to see them perform live three times, each time being a remarkable experience. The best show I saw was easily when I was able to see them perform at the New City Liqwid Lounge as a special club tour that the band went on in the week leading up to the release of In Between Evolution. But that's more of an aside to show you how much of a fan I am.

Anyway, back to the box set. The set is quite handsomely packaged, containing the double disc greatest hits package Yer Favourites as well as the live DVD That Night In Toronto. Both Yer Favourites and That Night In Toronto are being made available separately. What the box set has that neither of those packages have is a bonus DVD containing the entire Tragically Hip video catalogue, a documentary about the band, and a series of artistic shorts called The Right Whale. Naturally, the completist in me coveted the bonus DVD so I absolutely needed to get Hipeponymous as opposed to the smaller, more incomplete greatest hits and live concert DVD packages.

The actual greatest hits are pretty damn good, but I am not really that drawn to them because, while there are many, many great songs on the two discs of hits provided, there are many more songs that I would have loved to hear that didn't make the cut. No "Dire Wolf"? For shame. But it's really more of a trifle for me to complain about one or two songs that were excluded because I am aware there is a deep catalogue to cull from and only a limited amount of space for fan favourites.

The live DVD is awesome and makes me really want to see them play Edmonton again just for that Tragically Hip experience. The footage was shot in Toronto as the name of the DVD That Night In Toronto would suggest. Apparently it's not just a clever title. If you've listened to Tragically Hip live footage or you've seen them live you're probably familiar at least somewhat with Gordon Downie's on-stage presence. He rambles. He improvises spoken word parts into many of the songs. He dances spastically. Basically Gordon Downie is that weird uncle you would probably be embarassed of at family outings, but are strangely compelled to visit every chance you get. Hearing The Tragically Hip studio albums and listening to them live are definitely not one and the same and it's nice to finally have a high quality live performance recorded other than the live album Live Between Us, which is also worth checking out.

The bonus disc is just icing on the cake to resort to using a cliche. Being a fan of the music video medium it's nice to have a copy of the Hip catalogue so far. The videos for "Poets" and "Ahead By A Century" being two of my favourites, though I could certainly ramble off about a half dozen other titles worth checking out, which is a testament to how deep the Hip catalogue is. The documentary has some good footage of the band in a non-performance light, giving interviews and just being normal human beings. I haven't really delved into The Right Whale yet, but that will be on the itinerary in the very near future I'm sure.

I think that in Canada and being a poet, it's almost a requirement that you want to perform your work alongside Gordon Downie or to perform Gordon Downie or to be Gordon Downie. This is a package that will give you insight into his methods, though you still won't be able to write like the guy. There can be only one Gordon Downie. Sadly.

You have to check it out.

1 comment:

Mike said...

The Hip are truly the greatest Canadian band ever. They have consistently challenged themselves and their audience. I know that many are fans of their earlier work, i.e. Up to Here and Road Apples. For me, it is their later work, from Phantom Power to In Between Evolution, that have really pushed them to the top of the heap. And I agree, Gordon Downie is one helluva poet and lyricist. He can be quite annoying at times, but he is definitely brilliant.

I maintain that the reason for The Hip not "making it big" in the US is directly attributable to Downie's songwriting. It's simply too intelligent and eloquent for a yankee audience.