February 28, 2022

The Tragically Hip - We Are The Same (2009)

Country: Canada
Language: English
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 01143-1129-2

© 2009 Zoë Records
Initial reaction to We Are the Same among longtime fans seemed to range, according to chit-chat on various blogs, from halting acceptance to outraged disdain. There is no denying that the latest from this now 26-year-old Canadian band bears little resemblance to the rawer, rootsier sound of the Hip's earliest works. But it's by no means a radical departure from 2006's World Container; it's more of an incremental step toward something less distinctive and more universally appealing in a commercial sense. Producer Bob Rock (MetallicaMötley Crüe), who also took the reins for that last album, returns here on the band's 12th studio effort, applying a polish to these generic arrangements of largely uninspired lyrics and hackneyed tunes that undeniably takes the Hip closer to a mainstream -- or, rather, an edge-free, knuckle-dragging -- pop/rock sound. Some might call it a bloated overproduction and leave it at that, but the malaise is deeper than over-ambition, approaching something closer to creative bankruptcy. Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that, after so long in the game, the Hip might harbor a desire for greater recognition and choose a producer who can deliver what's been elusive all these years. And at isolated moments the drive to reinvent as something more consumer-friendly succeeds: while there is a definite softer edge to most of these tracks, and an overall tameness, although that's not to say that theTragically Hip has abandoned everything that's identified them until now. Paul Langlois' and Rob Baker's guitars still scream and shout, or glimmer and shine, when required to, the rhythm section, bassist Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay, can kick up dust when given a chance, and Gordon Downie, when he's not over-emoting, still delivers his words convincingly and with emotion. The problem is more with the songs themselves and the gloss within which they are bathed: there is a derivativeness to much of the record, and a silliness to the fancy-pants settings they are given (strings abound, ballads plod, layers of unnecessary window dressing are added), a feeling that too many of these tunes were created with the sole desire to find a larger audience rather than to reflect what Downie and the band are really about after so much time together. It opens with a promising enough country-rocker, "Morning Moon," that would, in a more just world, be a huge hit single. And "Coffee Girl" too, with its bold, tasty trumpet, is the kind of perfectly crafted gem these guys have time and again proven they can turn out. But it quickly descends into pretense and earnestness with the back-to-back treacly "Now the Struggle Has a Name" and the nine-and-a-half-minute "The Depression Suite." With its oft-repeated tag line "Don't you wanna see how it ends?" the epic only has the undesired effect of causing the listener to say, "No, I don't, just end it already." From there, it stays in an abyss, as songs like "Love Is a First" (the first single), despite an attempt at rhythmic punch, and "Speed River" fail to drag the album back from the pit of mediocrity it's plunged into. At this point in their career the Tragically Hip should be making grander, more honest statements than this. We Are the Same is obviously meant to resurrect the band's fortunes rather than to further their artistry. Whether it does or doesn't find what it's seeking, its main accomplishment is that it drives the Tragically Hip closer to irrelevancy. And that's tragic.

tags: the tragically hip, we are the same, 2009, flac,


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