The Tragically Hip
In Violet Light
The massive attention and appraisal heaved upon The Tragically Hip during a few brief years in the mid-’90s never really suited the band, and it seems perfectly fitting that they’re back to keeping a more low-key profile these days. Not that they didn’t deserve it or even didn’t ask for the attention, but there was always something a bit weird about them, as if they were the stadium-rock band that would only shine in a small arena-setting. Their music was always a bit too left-of-center to fit in with the Barenaked Ladies and the Soul Asylum and those other bands they were dubiously lumped together with, and always too literate to deserve no more than superficial attention.
As such, it is no wonder The Hip have gone ahead and made their best work after they faded from the general public’s eye, now that they are allowed to focus on what they do best, not distracted by too many casual observers. And this one, their eight studio release, continues the path of refining and refreshing their sound, without really adding anything new to the mix. This is still a hybrid of everyone from The Church to The Smiths, from R.E.M. to INXS, from Simple Minds to Joy Division, and it’s still highly unique and very impressive. Not their finest album to date, it is still up there, with some regular classics in the making. “Silver Jet” is the prototype up-and-about Hip rocker, while “Are You Ready” is the album’s complex stadium-anthem. “A Beautiful Thing” is a lovely shanty-influenced song and “The Dark Canuck” a restrained and bold closing track.
The Hip’s career is marked by a stoic refusal to take the easy way out, as well as a willingness to open up to the listener, and that description applies to this album as well. Considered and idiosyncratic as ever, this is another fine addition to The Hip’s increasingly impressive catalogue.