Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Anyway, Susan

How do you know The Tragically Hip is a Canadian band? Easy: Two of its members go by “Gord.” (Lead singer Gordon Downie and bassist Gord Sinclair.) They’ve released a dozen or so albums, and they are not hip in any way, tragic or otherwise. They are truly huge in Canada, and they have a devoted, if smaller, following in the States. They play fairly straight-ahead rock, but fronted by Downie’s distinct voice and smart lyrics, which alternate between elliptical and narrative.

Their work is wildly hit or miss. The friend who introduced me to them did me the courtesy a while ago of compiling their better songs. When you stick to those, they’re solid. One of my favorite lyrics comes at the beginning of “Fireworks”:
if there's a goal that everyone remembers,
it was back in ol’ ’72
we all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
and all I remember is sitting beside you

you said you didn't give a f*** about hockey
and I never saw someone say that before
you held my hand and we walked home the long way
you were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr
The song below, for Wednesday, is decidedly darker. It’s called “Nautical Disaster.” You can read its pretty chilling lyrics here, and then you can have fun reading the comments beneath, where people heatedly discuss the factual basis for the lyrics of a song that starts, “I had this dream where...” Some claim it’s based on the Battle of Dieppe, others the sinking of the Bismarck. Still others think it’s just a metaphor for a doomed relationship. In any case, I think the lyrics are pretty great, and Downie himself seems perfectly content to obscure whatever possible origin the song has in reality, and to poke fun at himself. On a live version given to me by the aforementioned friend, Downie introduces the song by saying that it’s about to be adapted into a movie, “starring Peter O'Toole as the curmudgeonly lighthouse keeper, and Jodie Foster in the role of Susan...It's called The Nurse Patient.”

As you might expect from Canadians, they seem like pretty normal dudes in this clip. Well, it comes from an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1995, which makes it a little odd that the lead guitarist looks like a 1980s magician. And Downie does look quite normal, but definitely in an 11-o’-clock-news, he-was-the-quietest-neighbor-we-ever-had kind of way. Enjoy:



Blogger Dezmond said...

As an owner of those dozen or so albums, I'd say they are more hit than miss, but that is probably a fiar assessment. But when they are on, they have some fantastic tunes. I love "Fireworks."

If you go on YouTube, you can find many live clips. I think they were purposely pretty straightforward in that SNL clip. Check out some of the other live clips of "Nautical Disaster" and you can find some wilder performances. In one, Downie himself goes off on a long improv vocal part where he specifically talks about The Bismarck, so I am pretty sure that is what the song is about. Anyway, some of my all time favorite lyrics.

Gord's got tons of quaotable favorites. I always liked this line from "It Can't Be Nashville Every Night": "He said 'f*** this, and f*** that' / And this guy's a diplomat".

2:08 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I've come upon two free tickets to see The Tragically Hip tomorrow (friday) at The Fillmore Detroit that I can't take advantage of. Anyone in the area want 'em?

(I can't believe how hard it's been to give away free tickets)

2:51 PM  
Anonymous CLH said...

Downie, here, looks like Jim Carrey doing an impression of Downie. Or, maybe, Downie looks as if he's restraining a fit of Carrey-like hijinks. Is that just me?

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on! Going to Portland from Boise to see them for the 5th time, excellent experience!!!

Warm regards!

Long live the hip!


3:29 PM  
Blogger MandM said...

I just came across this post, and had to chuckle. You pointed out that this is from '95 and the guitar player looks like he's from the 80's. Funny thing is, except for Gord (the singer Gord) they all look exactly the same today!! I've seen them here in Portland numerous times, they are one of my favorites; lucky to see them here in small clubs, not in Canada where they are so huge!

Thanks for using the video, made my day :)

7:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home