REVIEW: Exclaim! on The Grand Bounce

“Exclaim! Canada’s Music Authority” just posted a great review of The Grand Bounce. Check it out here.

Gord Downie and The Country of Miracles
The Grand Bounce
By Vish Khanna

Seven years since The Battle of the Nudes, the informal charm of the Country of Miracles is refined on The Grand Bounce, another remarkable offering by Gord Downie. In an introductory essay, Downie playfully recounts the inspiration for these songs, tonally encapsulating his open mindset for this band. Since emerging with 2001’s Coke Machine Glow, Downie has explored a looser, relatively more lo-fi sound than that of the Tragically Hip’s. And by recruiting underground aces Julie Doiron, Dave Clark, Dale Morningstar, Josh Finlayson and John Press for his band, Downie is surrounded by friends who inspire risk. Overseen by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, there’s a hazy summertime vibe to The Grand Bounce that’s perfect for cottage escapes and easy evenings. The mood is best exemplified on “Yellow Days,” featuring a murky groove propelling its imagery to slow dance like no one’s watching. But it’s present elsewhere too; the festive stomp of “Moon Over Glenora” features a sweet Downie/Doiron duet and even the dynamic build of “The Dance and its Disappearance” is celebratory fun. Downie’s songs may be more structured on The Grand Bounce, but that doesn’t curb the Country of Miracles’ enthusiasm.

Why spill so many beans in that essay?
Downie: Well, probably like any good fox, to throw off the scent to more beans that could be spilled, I suppose. In the past, I’ve held onto them like a pie maker who doesn’t want you to see how I make it. But there’s connectivity; people make things and go through a long, beautiful process to do it. I’d be selfish to not allow people to be part of that.

Your solo work seems less rickety now.
I hear what you’re saying. On the earlier records, you could hear chairs scraping, doors closing, muttering and things that gave them a lot of personality. I was more interested in Chris getting together with these guys; his sonic sense with their spirit. It was a hunch that together we’d do something interesting and I think it does still hint at process.

Do you delineate songs for the Country of Miracles and the Hip?
No, I still adhere to the Raymond Carver adage: “Use it up; don’t save a thing for later.” That lets me sleep at night. I get it and use it and then whatever’s up next, I do. (Universal)

Gord Downie & The Country Of Miracles at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse

On a rainy and damp Thursday night, approximately 100 lucky guests experienced a great night of live music at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse. This 170+ year old schoolhouse (the first free school in Canada) was rocked by Gord & TCOM. The songs sound terrific live, and loud. The Drowning Machine was a particular standout – with the veins on Downie’s shaven head looking ready to explode!

The loose on-stage atmosphere left me with the feeling that we’d been let into the band, their club. Being so close allowed us to see and hear the little back-and-forths that go on between band members as they’re finding their groove within each track. Dale Morningstar appeared at times to be completed possessed by his guitar and the sounds he was wrenching from it. Dr. P filled out the sound on keys and organ – and grabbed an acoustic for the set closer. Josh Finlayson looked completely chilled, sitting on his amp while laying down some sweet bass lines. Dave Clark drums with an entertaining style that really complements the songs; Julie Doiron worked the distortion and her Vox amp to perfection.

And a couple of clips from the show that I found on YouTube:

REVIEW: 2009-05-01 – Montreal, PQ (Metropolis)

Tragically Hip ringmaster Gordon Downie defined his band’s two-set marathon at Metropolis Friday night when he introduced their latest disc, We Are the Same, as an album “full of conversations.” Not paranoid rants, not existential conundrums – two of the Hip’s stocks in trade – but something more reasoned and rational.

Reasoned and rational are risky selling points when a band is known for manic propulsion. But whereas the relentless pace of the Hip’s two most recent tours left audiences gasping, Friday night’s considered pace left lots of breathing room. As a result, the Hip we saw was more multi-dimensional, more full and complete, if not more fearsome.

Selecting the nine-minute-plus Depression Suite as an opening number sent a clear message that this wouldn’t be a race to the finish. Afterward – and not for the last time – Downie acknowledged the challenge being posed: “You passed the initiation.”

There were early rewards for fans who embraced that rite of passage: a darker, swampier New Orleans Is Sinking, with Downie casting himself as a hell-bound bluesman; the failsafe Bobcaygeon, with its nuances lost but its latent desperation revealed. There were also more challenges: a creaky Throwing Off Glass, and Now the Struggle Has a Name – a subdued choice for a set-ender, with a particularly committed vocal driving its mid-tempo crunch.

Some party-starved grumblers overheard during intermission probably weren’t assuaged when the band re-emerged and sat down for a few acoustic numbers, but the arrangements spotlighted the weathered beauty of Are We Family and Lake Fever. After Downie thanked the enthralled “for your kind indulgence,” the distracted got what they came for: Nautical Disaster’s night terrors; Springtime in Vienna, featuring an extended intro and combustible chorus; and an unstoppable Grace, Too, highlighted by Downie’s triple-jointed writhing.

The latter was the moment awaited by those who came purely to see steam shoot from the frontman’s facial orifices. Other ticket holders came away with something less fleeting: a thoughtful portrait of a mature band that is, in its way, more confrontational than ever – challenging its fans by not always giving them what they want. Every group should be so brave after 20-plus years of existence.

The Tragically Hip perform again Saturday at Metropolis.

— Jordan Zivitz

REVIEW: The Tragically Hip, Centre in the Square, April 27

Turning the Hip on its head

By John Paul Zronik

Most veterans of Tragically Hip concerts have come to expect the expected. The same songs performed the same way night after night, with little variation in set lists and few, if any, surprises.

Well, surprise, Hip fans. This is not the band you remember.

Can you say: “Acoustic Fireworks?”

During a two-set show at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square Monday night, the Hip delivered one surprise after another, performing what this reviewer considers one of the bands finest-ever concerts, including a sit-down acoustic performance of three songs to open the second half of the night.

Opening the show with Depression Suite – the longest track on We Are the Same, the band’s latest record – was a brilliant choice, going places the Hip has never gone before. I can not say enough about the live performance of this song. Wonderful, emotional, passionate and a rocking finish.

All of the band’s new songs translated brilliantly into the live setting, including Coffee Girl, Morning Moon, Honey Please, Love is a Curse (first set), The Last Recluse, Now The Struggle Has A Name (second set) and the encore The Exact Feeling.

But let us get to the heart of the matter. When it comes to oldies and goodies, the Hip delivered. And not in the form of Hip standards like New Orleans is Sinking, Little Bones or Fifty Mission Cap.

The band reached into the vault, performing the rarely played Yawning or Snarling (good enough to make you want to cry), The Bear (a pleasant acoustic surprise) and On the Verge (need I say more), as well as Hip hits In View, Twist My Arm, Escape is at Hand, Wheat Kings, 100th Meridian, Poets, Flamenco, Putting Down and Locked in the Trunk of a Car.

For the casual Hip fan, the set list may have seemed short on familiarity, but for the initiated, it was heavenly. I overheard one guy standing at the urinal after the show saying “They didn’t play enough old stuff.” I disagree with that assessment: They did play enough old stuff, just not the mundane “old stuff” people remember.

And seeing the Hip in an acoustic setting gave me a new appreciation for the band. The intimate sit down performance of The Bear, Wheat Kings and Fireworks was a stroke of brilliance. The sound was pure.

So, I loved the show. My only question: What took these guys so long to figure out what they are capable of? Mixing the set and throwing in the unexpected made this a Hip show to remember, one I will never forget. And the band was HOT!

Who knows where the tour and song selection will go from here, but if the Hip keeps delivering surprises like it did Monday night, concert goers are in for a real treat. Really.

My only regret is that I planned to attend only one show this tour, believing these guys would deliver more of the same, as they have year after year.

So a question for you, dear readers: Who has my extra?

Live & Intimate From The Bathouse Studio

This was possibly the coolest event staged by a band that I’ve ever attended, or heard about. From the moment that Strombo climbed the steps to the front door of the house, I knew that we were in for a real treat. The band were in top form, and the new songs sounded great live. But the real gem for fans was the tour of The Bathouse Studio. A glimpse inside the normally closed world where The Hip make music.

The house looks like what The Hip sound like. That may be a tough analogy to swallow, but it works. Choose any descriptor for The Hip’s music and it can be applied to a section of the house. From the college furniture graveyard to the all new, old, loft in the garage the house screams – This Is The Hip!!!

Switching seamlessly from interview to song and from room to room throughout the house, the hour and a half broadcast felt way too short. But even with another hour I probably would be saying the same thing.

Opening with “The Depression Suite” the band proved that these songs, despite some critical reviews to the contrary, can be performed live.

Songs performed include:
The Depression Suite
Thompson Girl – performed in the kitchen where they recorded it.
My Music At Work – acoustic, in the kitchen
Bobcaygeon – Gord sang while beating George in a game of Snooker. Gord even kept the score!!!
Escape Is At Hand… – talked about Material Issue
Courage – Courage My Love, in Kensington Market – Toronto
Morning Moon – about looking out across the lake from the Bathouse
Love Is A First
The Last Recluse –
Now The Struggle Has A Name – about Residential Schools, PM Harpers apology.
Coffee Girl
Country Day – while the credits rolled

Jim Bryson on keys – will be joining them on tour…

The Canadian Press review “We Are The Same”

On 12th album, Tragically Hip flirt with new sounds while sounding like themselves

The Tragically Hip have always been blissfully out of step with the trends of the music industry.
So when Bob Rock signed on to guide the Tragically Hip’s 2006 album, “World Container,” fans fretted that the pop-minded producer would smooth away the subtle, literate side of the band in favour of arena-friendly fare.

That worrying was needless, as it turned out – the band’s Hip-ness endured for another compelling collection of tunes.

Rock returns for the Hip’s latest, “We Are the Same,” a sombre, grounded set that showcases a band that seems even less interested in scoring a radio hit.

The album’s title would seem to refer to the everyman focus of frontman Gord Downie’s lyrics. “The Depression Suite” is a three-part examination of characters plugging away in menial jobs, while “Coffee Girl” tells the story of a “beautiful and disaffected” employee at a java shop.

“Hangover hanging on by the fangs, walk to work on wild feet,” Downie sings. “Get to the back door, look around then turn the key.”

But if the record’s title is a reference to the all-for-one nature of Downie’s lyrics, it also seems a bit ironic given the record’s disjointed flow.

The first half of the album is composed of stately, country-inflected tunes while the tempo nudges up on the flip side with some distorted rockers that will seem right at home blaring out in hockey arenas.

“Now the Struggle Has a Name” and “The Depression Suite,” which clock in together at well over 15 minutes, comprise the album’s turning point but also its saggy, momentum-killing midsection.

The album suffers when it finds the Hip straying too far from their comfort zone. Strings are uncharacteristically prominent here, with the production occasionally swelling to levels of Coldplay-like grandeur, while the blazing guitar solos in “Queen of the Furrow’s” and “Speed River” feel likewise overblown.
Such broad strokes have never really suited the Tragically Hip, and it’s the album’s smaller moments that truly resonate.

“The Last Recluse” is a highlight, with Downie delicately crooning above the accompanying acoustic guitar and organ, “Coffee Girl” is sprightly yet nostalgic, while “Love is a First” promises to be a live favourite with its fist-pumping chorus and stream-of-consciousness spoken-word section.

On “Frozen in My Tracks,” Downie imagines “the day you take me for granted.” Yet his band seems to have discovered a winning formula. Even on their 12th album, the Hip continue to flirt with new sounds while sounding precisely like themselves.

“We Are the Same”
Tragically Hip (Universal)
Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

The Edmonton Sun reviews “We Are The Same”

We Are The Same
Rating: 3 out of 5

Yes they are. And no they aren’t.

The title of The Tragically Hip’s 11th studio album suggests the Kingston Can-Rock veterans haven’t changed a bit. That’s true — in terms of their lineup, anyway. Singer Gord Downie, guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay are all present and accounted for once again.

The songs, however, have not remained the same. This earthy 12-song disc actually marks something of a departure from the band’s dependable trademark mix of arena-rock muscle and indie-rock quirk. Despite being helmed once again by superstar producer Bob Rock, this is a moodier, rootsier, quieter and prettier affair than usual, with slower songs, more acoustic guitars and plenty of strings. Heck, Downie even reins in his anxious yelp and outpatient ranting most of the time in favour of more personal lyrics and a more intimate delivery.

Whether they’ve strayed too far from their fans’ comfort zone remains to be seen. But whatever happens, you have to give them some credit for not just dishing out the same-old same-old.

For the rest of the review, and a track-by-track commentary, visit The Edmonton Sun.

The Buffalo News reviews “We Are The Same”

Please visit The Buffalo News to read the complete review.

Ãœber Hip
By Jeff Miers
The Buffalo News
4 out of 4 stars

Dear, sweet music. You loved her once, a long time ago.

You whispered sweet nothings in her ear, courted her with chivalry, promised Paris but delivered a suburb in Podunk, grew lazy and inattentive, cultivated a beer belly, left her at home while you went off chasing the newest, glitzy young thing with your equally loyalty-challenged buddies. You will not have the right to claim hurtful surprise when she finally ups and leaves you. You had it coming.

If it’s the truth that we have marked this moment in the “everyone can do it, anywhere, at any time” phase of music’s creation and dissemination with a failure to place any real cultural value on the music itself, then it would logically follow that the artists will fall into line and dutifully churn out music that doesn’t matter.

Most have done exactly this, and who can blame them? Times are tough, and hedging one’s bets isn’t exactly a radical approach these days.

The Tragically Hip, however, have opted for the oftnamechecked, but rarely chosen “path less traveled.” The Canadian band’s 12th studio album, “We Are the Same,” is its most ambitious, detail-oriented and cleanly rendered effort to date. In an era when plowing the same furrow ad infinitum has been elevated to a virtue, the Hip has instead built with its own hands a gorgeous, fragile crystal city and placed it at the top of a wind-swept hill. There it sits, shimmering, naked to the elements, but unafraid.

The band has reinvented itself. We had no right to expect as much.

All of this is achieved without you really noticing it, until about the third time through the record, when you realize that it now owns your soul, like it or not. (And I suspect a good many Hip fans won’t; this is music to dream to, not drink beer to, no offense to anyone intended. There are really beautiful string arrangements going on, sparse orchestration in service of a storyteller’s volition. How will it play in arenas? Powerfully, I expect, but only if the listener accepts change and growth as both good and necessary.)

Atop all of this, Downie delivers his finest lyrics and strongest vocal melodies yet. The seeds of these were planted back in “Ahead By A Century,” sprouted over the years into “Bobcaygeon,” “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken,” “World Container’s” title song, and now, come fully into bloom with “Now the Struggle Has A Name,” quite possibly the strongest, most viscerally imaginative and imagistic song in the Hip canon.

With a band at the peak of its collective power roiling beneath him, Downie’s lyrics are simultaneously felt and heard. There is now no separation between form and content.

“We Are the Same” is like a love letter, one that begins Dear, sweet music… reviews “We Are The Same”

Read the complete review at

Reviewed by Neil Carver

After 26 years together, 11 studio albums and a reputation as one of the best live shows ever, it is a true sign of greatness that the Tragically Hip’s 12th album sounds as fresh, strong and relevant as anything they’ve ever done.

We Are the Same continues where 2006’s World Container left off, still growing the “big sound” brought about by their ongoing association with producer Bob Rock. Where World Container pushed them to the higher and harder edges of anthemic rock, they clearly haven’t forgotten their country influences and lush arrangements. “Morning Moon” starts off with quiet acoustic strumming that bursts into full country electric paralleling the dawn sun that illuminates its cold sister. Gordon Downing states it plainly, “The sun is a light bulb and the moon is a mirror,” one that reflects our disappointments but still lights up our hopes.


We Are the Same comes full circle with the closing track “Country Day.” Here they draw a conclusion to what was started with “Morning Moon.” Whatever hopes and doubts began in that sunrise, here we find the satisfaction and resolve of the everyman who has worked hard for another day and looks forward to the challenges and possibilities that the next morning will bring. We Are the Same works like that. Put it on repeat and let it cycle through. That is when you realize that this is the soundtrack for all of us, day in and day out. It tells all of our stories with a realistic eye, poignant joy and a happy enthusiasm that belies the age of cynicism it chronicles. The Tragically Hip find a way to sound young after a quarter of a century because they have outgrown the angst and youthful rage most would direct at our times and focus on what is truly important. We should all listen closely.

Calgary V-Fest wraps up


Organizers and fans praise the prowess of Canadian bands as our nation’s greatest entertained 18,000 fans


Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, showed why they\'re still Canada\'s biggest band. (STUART DRYDEN/SUN MEDIA)There were a few more clouds in the sky and the temperature was cooler, but the second day of Virgin Fest still attracted 18,000 local music fans to Fort Calgary yesterday.

Calgary’s inaugural Virgin Music Festival wrapped up with the cream of Canada’s music crop making up the bill.

“The music depth here is so rich and so diverse, it’s wonderful” said Virgin chief marketing officer Nathan Rosenberg about the line up.

“Canadian bands can really hold their own against the best of Britain and U.S.”

Though the festival ran smoothly for the most part, there were a few issues.

Festival-goers complained about the lack of toilets and the long lineups to get into the beer gardens.

“There are lots of toilets, but people miss some of them,” countered Virgin Festivals director Andrew Bridge.

“But that is something we will have make people better aware of next year.”

Bridge said Fort Calgary’s hilly, riverside location posed some logistical dilemmas, but felt they had done a good job of addressing the problems.

High beer and food prices were another bone of contention with some music fans.

“I think $7 for a hi-ball or beer is kind of excessive,” said 22-year-old Michael Rodgers. “What can I do? It’s a festival.”

But Rosenberg said that food prices were on par with how much it costs for take out and Bridge noted that the beer gardens were always packed with people.

There were very few medical or police emergencies during the weekend. Heat stroke hit a number of people on Saturday, but Rosenberg said festival staff made sure people were keeping hydrated.

“There were a handful of people thrown out for being drunk and disorderly,” said Bridge.

“But I think the number was something like 15. A really small percentage.”

While there was more of a buzz around the site for Saturday’s headliners The Flaming Lips and Stone Temple Pilots, the hype was still strong for a number of yesterday’s acts, including The New Pornographers and The Tragically Hip.

Thirty-five-year-old Melissa Halaska brought her daughter Arianna to the festival. It was the 12-year-old’s first concert and she was thrilled to be able to see some of her favourite bands.

“She’s here to see The Spades, 10 Second Epic and City & Colour,” Halaska explained.

“I’m here to see Matthew Good.”

Halaska said the $150 she spent on the day passes for her and her daughter was well worth it.

“Definitely. It’s been pretty good so far so I think it’s a great deal.”

Local bands The Summerlad and Chixdiggit were the first acts of the day.

Chixdiggit nabbed the main Virgin Mobile Stage and while there wasn’t a large crowd that early in the afternoon, they made sure each and every person was singing along to their catchy pop-punk.

Smart-aleck singer KJ Jansen called-out those who didn’t comply and accused those who were sitting on picnic blankets of being from Edmonton.

The Constantines took the stage next and treated the audience to a surprise appearance by Hip frontman Gord Downie during their final song, Do What You Can, from their latest release, Kensington Heights.

Montreal’s Stars snappy pop music was lot on many of the rock fans in the crowd. But those who ‘got it’ couldn’t help but fall in love with Amy Milian’s sugary sweet vocals and Torquil Campbell’s Morrissey-esque belting.

City & Colour fit in perfectly with yesterday afternoon’s laid-back vibe, but was dull as dishwasher. Singer and songwriter Dallas Green has an incredible voice but his stage presence is about as exciting as a civic election.

By the time Matthew Good hit the stage last night, the entire crowd was on its feet for the first time that day.

Those who had taken in both days of the festival for were no doubt tired by the time The Tragically Hip hit the stage last night. But the Hip faithful danced, yelled and sang at the top of their lungs as the band kicked off their set with Yer Not the Ocean from their latest release, 2006’s World Container.

The Tragically Hip were sleek, professional and maybe a little predictable. But they showed exactly why they are still this country’s biggest band.

If Calgary music fans were thrilled with this weekend’s V-Fest, festival organizers were just as ecstatic and were already considering bringing the festival back to the city next year.

“We always say that if we can get the talent and we can get the venue and get all the pieces working together we’ll do it,” Bridge said. “We’re not going to put on a sub-standard festival. We want to make sure we can give festival-goers the best experience they deserve.”