4. The Tragically Hip - Music At Work
I know you’re thinking what the hell am I thinking. Surely Road Apples or Fully Completely. Maybe even Up To Here. Nope. I love those albums as well but for me it is Music At Work at the top of the heap. I think my reasons are similar to why I like U2 but would rather listen to One Tree Hill over Pride, or Drowning Man over Sunday Bloody Sunday. The bands I really like tend to be due to the songs which never get played on the radio. The album cuts. On some albums these cuts are filler and sometimes they are the meat of the project. When I first bought Music At Work I thought it was the biggest pile of Tragically Trash I’d heard to date. I listened to it a few times, saw the “An Evening With” tour in Toronto (I think I’ve seen them 20 times since 1992 at The Concert Hall show prior to Road Apples being recorded). I didn’t really listen to it again until about a year later. Then it hit me. This was an incredible record. It is a weird, non-commercial album album - an “Aim for the gutter” kind of album as Neil Young might put it. When I see them live now it is songs like Sharks, or The Completists or Wild Mountain Honey I want to hear, not Courage or 50 Mission Cap or even Music At Work. This album for me is full of those “other” songs that I love, not the commercial singles. The Hip have these types of songs littered throughout their catalogue in the form of Opiated, The Luxury, Emperor Penguin, Titanic Terrrarium, Eldorado, Are We Family, The Darkest One, Leave, Dire Wolf, Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man, On The Verge, World Container, Sherpa, Don’t Wake Daddy. Music At Work is like an album full of these types of songs and it is what I really like about The Tragically Hip. The dicotomy between the intensity of Tiger The Lion and the gentleness of Lake Fever is one of the great transitions in their Catalogue. Stay is an underappreciated beautiful song as are, As I Wind Down The Pines and Toronto#4. I think the thing is that all the songs on this album sound like The Hip but at the same time they don’t sound like The Hip as one would expect. A left turn. I still don’t like Freak Turbulance, though. Never did. Everything else on here is a 10.
Like most of Gord Downie’s lyrics I don’t really know what he is talking about but he sure makes them sound good.
Here is a version of Sharks Live in Hartford, Connecticut at The Webster Theatre on August 4, 2000 featuring Chris Brown and Kate Fenner, formerly of The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir.
Here is a live version of Lake Fever from Queen Elizabeth Theater, Vancouver, BC Canada.
This album did not chart in Bob Mersereau’s book The Top 100 Canadian Albums. I’m probably the only person who voted for it. Fully Completely came in at number 5, Up To Here at 15, Day For Night at 21, and Road Apples at 26. The closest this album got was Love Tara by Eric’s Trip charting at number 39. Julie Doiron sand back up on The Completists, Toronto#4 and As I Wind Down The Pines on Music At Work