Tragically Hip happily reinvigorated

Tragically Hip happily reinvigorated

Producer Bob Rock helped to freshen and update their sound


Almost 10 months after the release of World Container, the Tragically Hip are still praising Bob Rock. Produced by Rock, World Container achieved several things. It affirmed a turnaround the Kingston, Ont., band undertook in 2004 with its In Between Evolution album, it freshened the band’s sound by subtly introducing such things as new wave-styled keyboards and, most importantly, returned them to the forefront of Canadian bands.The Tragically Hip is not alone. While they were jamming and experimenting on previous albums, bands from Nickelback to Arcade Fire to Broken Social Scene to Billy Talent and others were forcing a reappraisal of Canadian rock and becoming successful in the process.

The Hip was in danger of being taken for granted. Something had to be done.

That something started with In Between Evolution. The songs were more concise and better than they’d recently been. Then Rock entered their lives and took them further.

“I’m loving it,” exclaims bassist Gord Sinclair now that the band has played the World Container songs live. “When we first sat down to do this, I was a little trepidatious, but the great thing about the material is that the essence of the songs has been retained. We’re still playing seven songs each night. We rotate them all.”

The hipstory should be well known. Gord Downie, Bobby Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois and Sinclair formed the band in Kingston in 1983, became extremely popular in Canada, made movie and TV appearances, for a while headlined a travelling rock festival, Another Roadside Attraction, opened its own recording studio in Bath, won a truckload of Junos, were inducted into the Canadian Hall Of Fame, released a boxed set, Hipeponymous, that was broken down into a greatest hits CD and a DVD.

Hipeponymous might have been the end of one stage and signalled the beginning of another. The band had families now, some had moved to Toronto, a few had records made apart from the band, they had new managers (Macklam/Feldman, handlers of Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell) and their popularity had tapered.

“We knew we were at a stage where we had to come back really strong,” recalls Sinclair. “We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve had support from all levels of the media, but after a while you run out of things to say and you’re competing with your own history. When you’re in a creative environment you don’t want to be looking backward. You want to be looking forward.

“I don’t think reinvention is what was on our mind,” he continues. “All this is to say, we had to make something really special.

“I think, given what our ambitions were, we needed a guy like Bob.”

How was Rock able to make a difference? “He challenged us,” Sinclair replies. “He pushed us really, really hard. As a result, we knew exactly what was expected and this became the easiest session to do.

“He had a great feel for texture and kept coming up with ideas. And he has such an encyclopedic knowledge. We’d sit around and talk about the Gang of Four or Simple Minds and he’d know their records. Once we turned the reins over to Bob, it was easy.”

Part of The Tragically Hip’s rebirth was finding new management.

“Very much so,” says Sinclair. “A change of management is a significant process. It’s a chance to ask yourself who you think you are. But one thing that doesn’t change is the affection you have for each other. This was inspiring. We actually told each other how much we loved them and that was great.”

© The Vancouver Province 2007