REVIEW: The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem (2016)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20160620THE TRAGICALLY HIP – Man Machine Poem (2016 Universal)

The title Man Machine Poem reveals something about the new Tragically Hip.  The first song is entitled “Man”, and the last one “Machine”.  This album is an epic poem — the “Man Machine” poem.  It has a flow like a singular body of work, even though it is made up of individual songs.  Like most Hip albums of late, it is a brooding work thick with power in its quiet grooves.

Sounding a bit like like classic Radiohead, “Man” opens the CD on a suitably weird note.  Droning piano, strange echoey vocals…and I’m hypnotised immediately.  Granted, the subconscious mind keeps trying to find meaning in the music.  Now we all know the terrible news.  That in mind, we’re not going to treat this album like a funeral.  Brain cancer be damned, Gord Downey is doing that final tour, you know the one?  The one that nobody has been able to buy tickets for except on StubHub for many times their original value.  In other words, it’s a heavy atmosphere and you keep searching for hints and clues that are not there.  “Man” is a brilliant track, showing that the Hip were continuing to push their own limits.

Just about every track on Man Machine Poem is brilliant.  The first single “In A World Possessed by the Human Mind” sounds like something Bono wishes he had written.  The fuse smoulders, but the song blasts open brightly on the chorus.  Each song has its own character, but hard to define.  “What Blue” is simply lovely, a summery track that is hard to forget.  “In Sarnia” sounds more like “in the country”, but friends from back that way say that’s not too far from the mark.  Passion turned up to 10, Gord lets it all out.  The song is slow and quiet; all but Gord.

The days of “Little Bones” and “New Orleans is Sinking” are long behind now.  The Hip don’t write albums like that anymore, but what they do create still has innate power.  Listen to the acoustics and the slides blending with the electric guitars and steady beat of Johnny Fay.  The Hip run like a well oiled…gotta say it…Man Machine.  The older, wiser, and less loud Tragically Hip still rock, cranking it up when necessary.  “Here, in the Dark” is a fine example of placing the explosive charges in the exact right spots.  So is the growling “Hot Mic.”  The energy is palpable.  Even on a song called “Tired as Fuck”, there is energy in the air.

Man Machine Poem has an epic feel to it, from the strange start to the drawn out dramatic ending.   It’s temping to say something like “best Hip album in years!” but they’ve never stopped making great albums.

4.5/5 stars

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20 comments

  1. Full agreement from here, Mike. I can’t stop listening to this record.

    The Hip were never gonna re-make Road Apples their whole career. They’re smart enough to know they would’ve faded out if they’d tried. If you listen from the start and come all the way up to now, you realize their whole discography has been a process of dicovery, and becoming. Always shifting, always growing, always still indelibly Hip. And this record is just the next logical step in the procession. And what a step it is! I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too man. And who says it’s the last Hip album right? All we know is it’s the last tour. Who knows. Gord is a creative individual by nature. You just never know how people are going to spend their finite time.

      ANyway regardless of that wishful thinking, this is just a great album and yes, another step. A logical one. I love it too!

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  2. Cool review Mikey! Droning Piano! Great call on that one!
    Like how you toss it out there basically saying its a whole different deal than the earlier stuff!
    People want that sound but some can drive the artistic bus further! Hip are one of them

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well you know what, I find Hip fans come in two stripes. There’s guys like you, me, Aaron, Sarca, (yes she’s one of the guys lol) who will listen to whatever the Hip put out next. Other fans, sadly, are more about the memories of the “good old days” before the band mellowed out on Henhouse.

      This is such a good album though. Not as hard rocking as I usually listen to, but that is OK.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was telling Aaron the other day how much I dig Phantom Power now more than I did at the time of its release! That Gus Polar Bear song is a great track one of there best from the 2000’s in my book….

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  3. Great write-up, Mike. I’ve yet to sit down with this one, but I’m looking forward to it.

    As for Bono, I’m willing to bet he wishes he wrote every single song that he hasn’t!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said Mike- I haven’t stopped listening since I picked it up, like you said, flows like a singular body of work.
    I’m finding the 2nd track is really resonating, the idea of hoping you acted a certain way at a pivotal life moment, trying to recreate the scene – absolutely fascinating to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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