The Tragically Hip
Man Machine Poem
This is a tough one to review, given everything we know about it. The final Hip record isn’t just something you can put on in the background. There’s a ritual to it. So I went to my parents’ house, borrowed my mom’s car, went down to the HMV at the mall I grew up near and picked up a copy, listening to it as I drove around Winnipeg, as I’d done with so many Hip records before (I also picked up the new Radiohead on the same trip to really get into that high school mindset).
Opening with the gentle mindfuck that is “Man”, Man Machine Poem is a strange and charming offering from a band that never disappoints and always surprises. I’ve spoken often of how Trouble at the Henhouse was a door opening record for me, and I feel as though this disc, the Kingston quintet’s 13th studio LP, will open a lot of new doors for future Hip fans, possibly just discovering the band on this one.
“What Blue” is classic calm cool Gord Downie, coming off like something from one of his solo offerings or 2000’s Music @ Work, while “Great Soul” delivers the weird and the fuzz all while continuing in that same calming vein. “Ocean Next” is a meditative yarn, while “Here, In The Dark” and “Hot Mic” deliver the goods from two rooms over, rocking through the walls whether you’ve gone to bed or not.
Throughout the band’s career there has been a variety of producers – Steve Berlin, Bob Rock, Hugh Padgham (among many others), and all have lent a subtle hand in shaping the sound of these weird rock gems we call Hip records. Co-producers/mixers/Arts & Crafts kids Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin add their names to this list, continuing their subtle production relationship here to great effect. The songs are clean and simple, with just the right amount of ambiance, making for a great headphone experience.
Closer “Machine” is a nice bookend, summing up the piece but definitely quite the career. There’s too much to cram into five and a half minutes – too much to cram into five and a half hours.