Tag Archives: The Tragically Hip

Tragically Hip & Eric’s Trip Featured In Polaris Podcast EP13

Polaris Podcast EP7 was live from Ottawa.

For episode 13 of the Polaris Podcast we focused on two albums that recently received Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize hall of fame designation — The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely and Eric’s Trip’s Love Tara.

This episode featured interviews with veteran East Coast arts reporter Stephen Cooke and Michael Barclay, author of the book The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip.

This and other Polaris Podcast episodes can be found on iTunes, Google Play or Spotify.

Or, you can listen to it right here:

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Strombo’s Tribute To Tragically Hip Airs New Year’s Day

The Strombo Show

The Strombo Show

While 2016 was a pretty shitty year in a number of ways, 2017 is going to kick off spectacularly when The Strombo Show airs its four-hour tribute special to Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip on New Year’s Day via CBC Radio 2.

The special will feature some of my favourite Canadian bands, people like The Dears, D-Sisive, The Sadies, Daniel Romano and Etiquette, almost 50 acts in total, covering songs by The Hip.

I spoke to host George Stroumboulopoulos about the special for an AUX TV feature story.

To read about it click here.

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The Hip Get In Touch With Polar Bears

Gus the polar bear — stingnygaard, creative commons

Gus the polar bear — stingnygaard, creative commons

In anticipation of the release of the new Tragically Hip album, In Between Evolution, and the Hip’s big Canada Day Concert at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre, ChartAttack is declaring June 25 – 30 “Tragically Hip Week.” Leading up to July 1, we’ll be posting stories culled from a recent interview with Hip singer Gord Downie.

Here’s the third installment:

The Tragically Hip want you to know about the plight of depressed polar bears. One of the most compelling songs from The Hip’s new album In Between Evolution is an earnest ode called “Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park.”

Gus, for those of you not up on your cults of animal appreciation, is one of the main attractions of the Central Park Zoo in New York. The giant bear was diagnosed with depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior back in ’94, largely caused by the fact that tight zoo quarters tend to wreak havoc on the well-being of polar bears used to roaming 25 kilometres per day in the wild.

“Any time you’ve ever seen any animal in captivity — especially big guys like that — there’s a behavior that becomes pretty easy to spot. A dementia is what they call it,” says Hip frontman Gord Downie. “They have other names for it. Depression. So that’s sort of what we’re paying money to go see.”

To the Zoo’s credit, they paid $25,000 to an animal behaviorist to help find ways to get Gus out of his funk, which resulted in extensive activation programs to help his illness. And a few years ago they gave Gus’s quarters a massive expansion as well as providing him with some company in the form of two female companions, Ida and Lily. All this has made Gus and his girlfriends quite the media stars.

In addition to The Hip’s sonic salute, numerous news stories have been written about Gus. He’s also been the subject of a children’s book and a short film as well as inspiring performance art and fringe plays. His own “art” (chunks of log he has scratched up and chewed up rubber balls) will soon be available for sale on eBay.

Downie says the inspiration for the song came from a headline he read in the newspaper during a visit to New York. In the song, Gus is too down to feel like killing anything, which is a symptom of his depression.

“I know for a fact that polar bears, as a rule, and not even as a rule, unequivocally, want to kill anything that moves and eat it,” he says. “So there’s no sort of, I don’t think there’s any really taming them, really. And I think it’s one of those things where, yeah, if you’re up there in the tundra and you’re moving around, the only reason it’s not going to kill and eat you is because it’s already full. There’s something about that that’s kind of compelling to me.

“And we needn’t look much further than our own lives, I guess. I guess you can expand upon those feelings and thoughts as much as you like when you see that. Which I guess is also about what we pay money to see or do.”

The Tragically Hip’s In Between Evolution is in stores today.

This story was originally published June 29, 2004 via Chart Communications.

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Gordon Downie — Coke Machine Glow (Album Review)

Gord Downie's Coke Machine Glow

Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow

In order to fully understand Gord Downie’s new record Coke Machine Glow you first have to understand the parameters of the comparisons. Downie, the point man for The Tragically Hip, has long established himself as the mildly eccentric singer for one of the most successful Canadian rock bands ever. The Hip’s peers are no less than the biggest of the big (The Guess Who, Rush), but with Downie’s new solo project he’s hoping you’ll join him on a journey that will propel his work into an entirely different class of company.

Best described as the land of the earthy poet kings, this is the place inhabited by artistic giants like Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Cockburn and Daniel Lanois. To be lumped in amongst these universally respected, artistically vibrant solo artists takes a massive leap of faith considering Downie is the reigning monarch of beer hoist rock. And when it comes down to it, reluctant mucho props forthcoming, Downie ably meets this challenge.

Coke Machine is a wonderful success for a number of reasons:

1) With the exception of The Rheostatics, I can’t think of anyone whose imagery more effectively defines the term “Canadianna” (see the “Lofty Pines”).

2) It is not — in any way — like a Tragically Hip record. I’ve got a theory going that security on this release was so tight not because the record company were worried about leaks, but because they didn’t want advance word getting out that the record was full of mandolins, accordions and fiddles, thereby alienating the bulk of their cash-cow Hip following (check the jug-band rock of “Yer Possessed”). But I digress.

3) The impeccable eccentricity of it all. With a list of musicians helping out that reads like a who’s who on the permanent guest list of the Horseshoe Tavern, the seemingly disparate contributions of people like Jose Contreras, Dale Morningstar, Andy Maize and others are all unified under the sparse, challenging umbrella of sound they create.

4) If song titles like “Nothing But Heartache In Your Social Life,” “Boy Bruised By Butterfly Chase” and “Insomniacs Of The World, Good Night” don’t reek of titles lifted straight out of The Smiths songbook, I’ll eat my Meat Is Murder CD.

The greatest achievement with Coke Machine isn’t in any one actual song. There’s not a lot of the highest highs here. But as a whole, it’s all both unique and comforting, a sound that can only be described as Kawartha cottage porch rock. Held together by what seems like a case of beer, a half-dozen friends, some acoustic guitars and a few discreet hot knives behind the woodshed, Downie has managed to create a piece of work that defines what Canadian music truly sounds like in all its simple, naive majesty.

This review was originally published March 20, 2001 via Chart Communications.

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Gord Downie Loves The Trailer Park Boys

Trailer Park Boys

Trailer Park Boys

In anticipation of the release of the new Tragically Hip album, In Between Evolution, and the Hip’s big Canada Day Concert at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre, ChartAttack is declaring June 25 – 30 ” Tragically Hip Week.”

For the next three news days, we’ll be posting stories culled from a recent interview with Hip singer Gord Downie. Here’s the second installment:

The Tragically Hip may have a new record called In Between Evolution coming out and a marquee Canada Day show, but lead singer Gord Downie has something more important to talk about — the Trailer Park Boys. The conversation begins innocently enough, revolving around the mention that the new record is littered with references to gunsmoke and bullets.

“Yeah,” confirms Downie, “and swearing. No nudity, though. Unlike past records.”

Which means that, despite its dangerously high rocking level, church-goers can probably still dig the record.

“That’s right. So I don’t get the full Trailer Park Boys warning — dope references, nudity,” says Downie, before bursting forth with a most entertaining tangent. “Well, that’s the thing actually. They [the Trailer Park Boys] are trying to make a movie. I was saying to [producer Mike] Clattenburg, ‘You get to open up a whole new area of offensiveness.’ Well, not offensive. I think it’s beautiful. Most people love it. It’s great.”

For those of you still willfully oblivious, Trailer Park Boys is a Showcase/BBC America mockumentary that follows Ricky, Bubbles and Julian, three petty criminals whose drunk/stoned shenanigans end up causing some form of televised hilarity each week. Canada’s elite level rockers have all but deified the show’s protagonists in recent years. Alex Lifeson of Rush was kidnapped on one episode of the show and on another crooner Rita McNeil was forced to harvest marijuana for the Boys. The Boys have also appeared on tour with Our Lady Peace and have been featured in The Hip’s “The Darkest One” video. Also, thick-glassed Bubbles real-life alter-ego used to play in a genuine East Coast rock band whose name starts with an S, ends with an X, and has seven letters.

One of the Boys’ main adversaries is the character of trailer park supervisor Jim Lahey, a drunkard whose gift for shit metaphor is unparalleled. The mere mention of Lahey’s name sends Downie into a giddy line-for-line recall session.

“‘We’re heading into a full-fledged shiticane!’ ‘Pull up the jib, Randy, because it’s about to be covered in shit.’ But the ones they discard… Mike’ll tell ya. The one’s they’ve come up with, it fuckin’ hurts you laugh so much,” Downie enthuses. “And we haven’t even talked about J-Roc [a white hip-hopper played by Jonovision‘s Jonathan Torrence]. I don’t know. They’re just so funny.”

Beyond the dope humour and hijinx though, Downie figures there’s another reason why folks love the Trailer Park Boys.

“I think, more than the broad, sweeping idea of Canadian, we tend to relate to the people we grew up with,” he says. “This is a country of small towns, right? Let’s face, even Toronto. I think that the Trailer Park Boys, everybody knows someone like them.”

The Tragically Hip play Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre July 1. In Between Evolution hits stores tomorrow (June 29).

This story was originally published June 28, 2004 via Chart Communications.

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