REVIEW: The Kansas City Blog on World Container

The Kansas City Blog- The Wayward Blog

The Tragically Hip: New Album Reviewed While Listening

I recently asked my friend, the humorist and Pitch assistant calendar editor Chris Packham, to go to this site, stream the new Tragically Hip album (bottom of the page, limited availablity) and let me know what he thought of it. I’ve been a fan of the Hip — arguably Canada’s biggest rock band — since I was a wee bairn, and yet few people I know have even heard of them. Their new one, World Container, came out earlier this year. Compared to other Hip albums, this one’s a bit overproduced and anthemic, trading the band’s usual nuanced style for booming pomp — just listen to all the times Gord Downie goes “yeah” and “that’s right” to punctuate his verses (especially on “Fly”). Blame it on producer Bob Rock for getting ’em all worked up. But there are some damn great songs, as always. As a result, it’s one of the best workout tapes of the year. But anyway, here’s Chris’ hilarious take.

Here is my review of World Container, by Tragically Hip. I have never listened to a Tragically Hip album, and am therefore COMPLETELY UNQUALIFIED to voice an opinion. I am totally typing and listening at the same time, so you’re getting my raw, unfiltered impressions. There are no swears, here, though.

1) Yer Not The Ocean

Pretty awesome song, with an excellent melody, nice breaks, some surprising background vocals as the song’s arc approaches a lush climactic finale. TEN POINTS FOR GRYFFINDOR!

2) The Lonely End of the Rink

I like this song’s title better than the actual song itself. It’s as well-constructed and well-paced as that first track, but not as strongly melodic, which is the empirical basis upon which all songs should be judged. I call it the “Good Ship Lollipop” scale. This one scores, like, a four. Are all Tragically Hip songs as layered as these first two? They’re both pretty busy, with lots of instruments and sounds cutting in and out.

3) In View

“I love you! You know I do!” Oh, good. FINALLY, a song about ell-oh-vee-ee. “I’ve been meanin’ to call you, and I do. Phone rings once, phone rings twice, phone rings three times.” I am literally transcribing this song as it plays. It has turned me into a typist, this song. It’s definitely no “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud,” by William Wordsworth, is it? That goes,

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

However, you cannot dance to “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” whereas, “In View” by the Tragically Hip makes me want to go to the mall and try on different outfits in a quick-cut montage.

4) Fly

Bit of an anthem, isn’t it? Sky imagery, soaring chorus, etcetera. At first, I thought they were going to take it down a notch, but once the song really kicks into gear, it totally does not take it down a notch.

5) Luv (Sic)

Very clever title. Did you know that as far back as the tenth century, “lovesickness” was not just a literary convention, but was apparently considered to be an actual malady which could kill you? Like heroin withdrawal! Then the humoral model of physiology collapsed and took lovesickness with it. I should point out that the humoral model was the concept that the human body was governed by the balance of four bodily “humors.” It wasn’t some kind of Patch Adams clown-nose crap. This song and I don’t have any chemistry. It seems like we should totally like each other; we have common interests, but we’re just not clicking phermonally.

6) The Kids Don’t Get It

Gordon Downie’s sincere and assertive vocals become a love it/hate it proposition in this song. It’s like a challenge! I’m totally being challenged to like this song, but I am sadly unable to meet its high standards. Why is this song judging me?

7) Pretend

NOW they’re taking it down a notch. This song’s rhythm seems to have been deployed for the express purpose of eighth grade slow-dancing, where the couple holds each other at arm’s length, and shuffles back and forth while avoiding eye contact. And the title evokes the eighth grade slow-dancing convention of “pretending” that you are somewhere, anywhere else and the sincere hope that you will never again feel that awkward. Moving into the second half of the song, it’s almost like a disco ball has descended over my desk and filled my cube with little spinning sparklies. I am very nostalgic.

Lastnight I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me

Should be called “Lastnight (sic) I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me.” Just saying. I’m glad the song doesn’t go into any further details about its dream, because lordy do I hate listening to people tell me about the dream they had last night. Want to hear some other pet peeves of mine?

-Stickers on fruit
-“Wacky” outbound voicemail messages
-People who quote “Seinfeld”

“You kissed my fingers and you made me love you,” is, surprisingly, the actual hook, here. In my opinion, these lyrics would be funnier if he were singing about a hobo, or something, but funny is clearly not what he’s going for, here.

9) The Drop-Off
Angry growling guitars, ascending melody and vocals on the chorus. Nice percussive punctuation under the lyrics. Which I am admittedly paying no attention to, whatsoever. I was texting somebody through half of this track. It’s a good song, though. I’m going to listen to it again.

10) “Family Band”

I like this title because it reminds me of a TV show from a more innocent time. It also evokes showbiz parents who smack their kids around when they forget the lyrics or miss a note. The rhythm section has now completely recovered from the mid-album slow-tempo song, and we’re moving along a predictable arc to a climactic finish. PLEASE NOTE: This song has a totally fake ending, where the last note fades, followed by silence, followed by the musical equivalent of the alien queen impaling Bishop the android on her tail and attacking the kid, followed by Ripley (Gordon Downie) clomping out in a robotic suit. Fasten your seatbelt! It’s a real rollercoaster.

11) “World Container”

The eponymous album-ending track. “There’s a world container with your name on it, and a billion ways to go berserk.” Down-tempo intro with soulful piano followed by down-tempo verses and chorus with soulful piano. Did I mention the melodic? It totally brings the melodic to the melody table. On the other hand, it does not make me feel like going to the mall and trying on different outfits, which is the greatest feeling in the world.

— Chris Packham
Category: CD Reviews

Three More Days….

World ContainerOn March 6 World Container will be released in the US; as most/all of the really hard core US fans already have the album, it will be interesting to see how it sells (assuming that we can get some hard numbers).

As well, for any of our US readers, please post in the comments if you see World Container for sale at your local record shops; or if you see/hear any promotion for the record. (And of course feel free to post your reviews of the album in the comments.)

“World Container” & “Yer Favourites”; popular Christmas presents

According to CANOE — JAM! Music SoundScan Charts The Hip’s two most recent releases sold well in December; WC jumped from #55 to #33, and YF jumped from #187 to #76!

Also of note is the fact that YF has been on the charts for 59 weeks… That’s every week since it’s release on November 8, 2005.

If you haven’t picked both of these albums up, you can get them by clicking on the following images:
Yer FavsWorld Container

IVL Bonus Track: Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me

Every time I listen to Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me, it makes me think of the three stellar IVL Bonus Tracks “Problem Bears”, “Forest Edge” and “Ultra Mundane”. The pace, the music, the lyrics, the overall sound, everything makes me think that this track has been hanging around since 2002.

Am I nuts? Do you hear it? Thoughts?

Review: on World Container

The Tragically Hip
World Container
(Universal; 2006)

Rating: 78%
Combined Rating: 79%

In early October, Gord Downie, the Tragically Hip’s unshutupable frontman and Brautigan style poet, did a great hour-long interview on Vancouver’s 99.3FM “The Fox” morning show. A couple of highlights and a gross overstatement:

1) Gord, in lieu of answering host Jeff O’Neill’s question, opts instead to pester him for using the word “resonate” in pre-interview conversation. This happens twice. A station co-worker later joins in.

2) After being asked to choose a song from his then-unreleased new record to preview on air, Downie enthusiastically (and rightfully) picks “Family Band,” the catchiest song his band’s penned in almost a decade. Ten seconds of idle talk ensue, followed by the announcement that they can’t play the track because their copy of the record suddenly stopped working. They quickly play eight year old single “Poets” instead, cutting off Downie’s confused follow-up request for “The Kids Don’t Get It,” either not understanding or not believing that their copy of his record mysteriously wonked out just minutes after playing “In View” — their best rock single since “Poets,” and a #1 single in Canada around the time this record hit stores. Warms my heart.

3) Between terrible avian flu jokes and brief discussion about his cameo as a cop in the recent Trailer Park Boys movie (the cast from which he’d worked with years ago on the “Darkest One” video), Downie calls World Container, his eleventh record with Kingston’s Tragically Hip, the best they’ve ever made.

The album’s infamous producer, Bob Rock, joined in recently with his own hyperbole, dubbing World Container “My Great Canadian Record,” proudly usurping Simple Plan’s Still Not Getting Any. (Another gem from that bio: “they even said they listened to and enjoyed the ‘Dr.Feelgood’ album, that I had done in the 80’s with Motley Crue! Wow!!!!”.) And sure, of course they’re going to say that; few admit to making a shit record, and both are behind a product that 95% for sure won’t move units outside of Canada; they need all the help they can get. But Downie actually sounds sincere in his newest-album-is-the-bestest press banter, and for good reason. After his group’s decade-long search for a post-Phantom Power (1998) identity, and after coming to terms with their inability to penetrate the modern US rock radio wasteland, World Container sounds like the work of a band — Downie, drummer Johnny Fay, lead guitarist Rob “one with the hippie hair” Baker, bassist/backup vocalist Gord Sinclair, and rhythm guitarist Paul Langlois (via Wikipedia, and they never lie: “According to a popular legend, Paul Langlois once ate three 72 oz. steaks in one hour. He spent the first 45 minutes having sex with his waitress”) — regaining a sense of vitality and purpose.

Downie’s wrong, though, of course — this isn’t the best record the Hip have made. But eight years after Phantom Power’s triumphant comeback from the ill-received Trouble at the Henhouse (1996), they desperately needed another focused rock album like this, one that avoids spinning their wheels musically, lessening their reliance on Downie’s lyrics — at times the best this country’s produced since Leonard and Joni’s time, and always centuries ahead of whatever’s on your local modern rock station right now (“Personal stakes will get raised and get raised til your story gets compelling / If you lacked the sense or were willfully dense is forever in the telling” vs. “Girl you make it hard to be faithful with the lips of an angel”). Not that they haven’t been making good records since 1998, trying new producers in a ton of different studios in at least three countries, but the music became too predictable, showing only marginal growth each time out. Instead of the next Great album Phantom Power couldn’t help but promise, we got a bunch of almost-there’s instead: 2000’s Music @ Work, 2002’s In Violet Light, and 2004’s In Between Evolution (rated exactly 5% too high, my apologies).

World Container is also “almost there” in the sense that it’s not a Great album — not in the context of the the band’s discography, nor as an introduction, approached without twenty-three years worth of presuppositions and expectations attached. It doesn’t avoid all of their last record’s missteps, but it does thankfully manage to avoid its complacency: here, the band is very clearly trying to push themselves, upping not only the tempo but their willingness to experiment in small but appreciated ways with arrangement and structure — Spanish guitar solos, dance-rock bridges, more than three instruments, etc. Bob Rock levitates toward the lowest common denominator as only Tal Bachman’s producer could, but by some freak miracle only barely stands in the way of the Hip’s most consistent set of songs in almost a decade. For better or for worse, every track on World Container sounds like a potential single, a full-out attempt to reassure Canadian fans they’re done coasting on Hip-by-numbers filler, as well as another likely pointless olive branch to a US commercial rock audience currently eating up Sam’s Town like it’s as good as The Killers desperately want it to be.

For worse: “Fly” is home to the record’s only disarmingly capital POP chorus, paired with a boring bridge (“Fly, that’s right / Fly, yea, that’s right”) and verses straight out of Music @ Work’s “Puttin’ Down.” Then there’s the two overproduced ballads (shocking, given Rock’s past work with minimalists Cher and Bon Jovi): album closer “World Container,” a choir-backed power ballad remake of R.E.M.’s “Daysleeper” and Lennon’s “Imagine” (also referenced in the song: “He’s the one who couldn’t imagine / All the people living in peace / Yoo-hoo-ooo-oo”), and “Pretend,” aka the beautiful acoustic song that Downie plays in several annoying cut-aways in the “In View” video. Except that now it’s decked out with an unfittingly full arrangement that Downie at first doesn’t seem to want to play into, then later follows into melodrama; the song’s big climax, a compounding “You can’t pretend / yes i can Yes I Can YES I CAN,” is crassly shouted and pushed high in the mix, deflating its momentum instead of delivering on the kind of emotional cadence they’re obviously going for. A shame, considering how good the rest of the song is, even despite its producer’s inablity to grasp the alien concepts of emotion and subtlety.

Those are, thankfully, exceptions. “The Lonely End of the Rink,” “The Kids Don’t Get It,” and “The Drop-Off” play to the band’s long-ago defined strengths, giving some fairly straightforward rock tracks enough energy and depth to overcome their repetition, each exactly the kind of great upbeat single they’ve failed to deliver since “My Music at Work” (good Bruce McCullough directed video, best lyrics). Likewise, standouts “In View,” “Luv (Sic)” and “Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me” faintly adapt (non-Crüe) ’80s rock/pop without overdoing the delivery like “Fly,” the latter even working in a brief but really great monosyllabic David Byrne hook (“You kissed my fingers and made me love you”). As small as these gestures — “In View’s” synth, “Yer Not the Ocean’s” piano, the title track’s Meatloaf-ish lead guitar, etc. — may be, they do manage to keep the album from falling into another retro-Hip trap, devolving into flat retreads like “Silver Jet” and “One Night in Copenhagen.” When this record does falter, it’s often when they’ve gone overboard with a new idea; which, yeah, is still frustrating, but far more welcome than Evolution and In Violet Light’s tendency to not go nearly far enough.

All things considered, World Container really is their most immediate and focused record in ages, making confident strides toward the kind of fully realized, career-defining statement their John Locke-looking frontman seems genuinely convinced they’ve already made. But then, assuming they can keep up this level of songwriting, and continue to to push their sound forward without a figure like Bob Rock around to stunt the growth, there’s no reason to think they don’t still have that kind of record in them. Especially when you consider the last time they were in this much of an obvious transition was with Henhouse — ‘cos if they could return from a disaster like “Coconut Cream” with an actual candidate for their best album yet (Phantom), it’s exciting to think where they could eventually take music this inspired and assured, given a capable producer and less damning muse.

Step one: stop working with the guy responsible for St. Anger. Please. 19,406 (and counting) Metallica fans can’t be wrong.

Scott Reid
October 31, 2006

Review: on World Container – November 2, 2006
World Container

For their 11th album Canada’s national heroes team up with über-producer Bob Rock.

When Bob Rock produced Metallica’s self-titled black album, there were cries of sell-out from the fans. Now that he’s at the boards for World Container, could there be a similar backlash for The Tragically Hip?

One listen to the lead-off single “In View” reveals the most optimistic track the Hip have laid down since “Fireworks.” The album kicks off with the power-pop crunch of “Yer Not the Ocean,” and closes with the title track, a sentimental piano ballad. It sounds like Rock is intent on breaking the Hip in the States, despite years of flying under the American radar.

Don’t worry, World Container still feels like a Hip album – it’s steeped in Canadian geographic references, nods to hockey and an overwhelming tension – it’s just dressed up with a lot of studio finery. For the first time ever, drummer Johnny Fay plays rim shots, Bobby Baker’s guitar is drenched in echo and more than once the Hip tap into ska, flamenco and dance-rock variations for the break down.

Lyrically Gord Downie has branched out, too. Some of his poetry is downright syrupy on the page (“Love (Sic)” and “Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me” being the prime examples). Much of the record seems preoccupied with his relationship with his daughters, making for passionate delivery. Downie’s voice has the gravitas to make it work and when he experiments with self-harmonies, the payoff is astounding. Lest you think he’s gone soft, check out the stunning album standout “The Kids Don’t Get It,” complete with gut-wrenching wail and boundless irony.

World Container may not have the consistency or impact of 2004’s In Between Evolution, but by pushing themselves (with or without Rock’s influence) the Hip have made a record that shows remarkable growth, even for a band that has shed its bar band status. It doesn’t always work, but World Container is fearless, angry, tender and engrossing, not to mention a great rock record.


Songs stats since the release of World Container

In the 6 shows since WC was released on October 17, The Hip have performed 120 songs – 59 different tracks. Here’s what has been played so far (some of the rarer tracks are bolded):

  • 38 Years Old
  • 50 Mission Cap
  • Ahead By A Century
  • At The Hundredth Meridian
  • Blow At High Dough
  • Bobcaygeon
  • Boots Or Hearts
  • Courage
  • Don’t Wake Daddy
  • Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man
  • Family Band
  • Fiddler’s Green
  • Fireworks
  • Fly
  • Fully Completely
  • Giftshop
  • Good Life
  • Grace, Too
  • Gus
  • Heaven Is A Better Place Today
  • In View
  • It Can’t Be Nashville Every Night
  • Lake Fever
  • Last Night I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me
  • Last Of The Unplucked Gems
  • Lionized
  • Little Bones
  • Locked In The Trunk Of A Car
  • Long Time Running
  • Luv(sic)
  • My Music At Work
  • Nautical Disaster
  • New Orleans Is Sinking
  • On The Verge
  • Pigeon Camera
  • Poets
  • Pretend
  • Puttin’ Down
  • Save The Planet
  • Scared
  • Sherpa
  • So Hard Done By
  • Springtime In Vienna
  • Summer Is Killing Us
  • The Dire Wolf
  • The Drop Off
  • The Kids Don’t Get It
  • The Lonely End Of The Rink
  • The Wherewithal
  • Three Pistols
  • Tiger The Lion
  • Titanic Terrarium
  • Twist My Arm
  • Use It Up
  • We’ll Go Too
  • Wheat Kings
  • World Container
  • Yawning Or Snarling
  • Yer Not The Ocean

Review: 2006-10-28 – Calgary, AB – MacEwan Hall

I’ll use two words to describe this concert: Fiddler’s Green

That’s right fans, they played Fiddler’s Green at last nights concert in Calgary. It was rumoured that The Hip rehearsed every song in the catalogue in preparation for this club tour, and by the look of the recent setlists, I think we can consider that rumour confirmed.

I haven’t get the correct setlist, but here’s what Billy from hipbase recalled:

In View
Use It Up
The Drop Off
World Container
Boots Or Hearts
Wheat Kings
50 Mission
Family Band

We’ll Go Too