Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tragically Hip - We Are The Same

Eleventh album from well-named Ontarian troupe, once purveyors of meaty, gritty bar-raddled indie rock with skewed country as well as Minneapolis leanings a la The Jayhawks (but never quite) here have either progressed or been pushed into a corner crammed full of sweetly shuffling, slightly askance cross-country glances. Either they've been cast adrift exploring pastures new or panhandling for the pension pot and ascended to soft-rock heaven if the twee aww shucks shrug of Coffee Girl, replete with trumpet solo (look, only The Waterboys can execute the trumpet in pop) and others (the rather aimless The Exact Feeling) as they drift around on waves of atmospherics then fade away into the vast void swaddled in layers, nay oceans, of Bob Rock's schmaltzing, string-laden, pop-burdened production making it resemble Coldplay's elder brothers who still have Sheryl Crow posters in the glove compartments, despite the shards of bitter lyrics from vocalist Gord Downie providing necessary distance from such would-be pretenders to their peerage (apart from when his voice, as on closing segments of highlight Speed River and Now The Struggles Has A Name, veer into lamb-bleating). Shame, as some of these could be majestic, hushed acoustical spook moments (country stroll through opening Morning Moon on it's bleary bed of Fleetwood Mac style backing choir) or massive, well, rock-crushing crescendoes like the Springsteen meets Joe Jackson Honey, Please and aforelysaid Speed River. The broodingly elegaic The Last Recluse resembles that Connell's '74-'75 song and one fears it could be the soundtrack to Chris Martin's onanistic gorging sessions if he could replace Bono on his bedroom wall. Alas the spectre of the sanctimonious one also appears on Love Is A First and that, as on the Radiohead meets Peter Perrett Frozen In My Tracks or the REM tinges of Queen Of The Furrows, doesn't equal the sound of a bandprogression through reinvention. The nine and a half minute opus that is The Depression Suite has a questioning refrain (quite often) of 'What if this song does nothing?' and 'Don't you wanna see how it ends?', one of which wouldn't trouble even the most part-time of armchair philosophers and the other which will largely be met by indifferent shrugs. It's a nice trip while you're there, though for the aching stretch to new horizons this doesn't follow the example of fellow country cohorts the Cowboy Junkies amazing Miles From Our Home album. Much of this is forgettable and unaffecting and has some of the stink of coffins of promise unfulfilled.
Stu Gibson
Henry's Funeral Shoe - Everything's For Sale

'With a fistful of fire and a mouthful of everything
I jumped from the pulpit to bullwhip the choir' - It's A Long Way

These two Clifford brothers hail from the fertile valleys of South Wales as opposed to the swampy lands of Louisiana or mud-flats of the Mississippi delta but plough pretty deeply and adeptly the fields of the two man blues set-up you may not expect from the lands more noted for indie pop and awful emo pap. Something of child prodigies it seems but whatever the whichway at least they've either transgressed, or quarantined, their stated roll-call of same old tried n' tested by tired chancers influences such as The Beatles and The Who. Tinges of these names are retained in the dirtily clean, slightly effected, sound, that, while slippery, warm and fuzzy doesn't cast them in the same beserkeley league as The Immortal Lee County Killers or other Alive label lunatic bingers like Left Lane Cruiser, but in the more sedate settings of Black Keys and Buffalo Killers. Singing guitar-toter Aled is possessed at times with Jim Morrison's thunder-gullet, French knicker-filleting roar, though, alas, it does often stray into the strangled larnyx of that berk from Reef. They may struggle to gain a foothold in the quagmire of the coagulated crowds of stripped-down slink merchants, though tracks like the slide-pounding hammer of Empty Church, the salaciously salivating sermonator It's A Long Way and top of the class roll around the mountain dancefloor dynamo Second Hand Prayer show they should be sufficiently equipped to negotiate such terrain and strive for that old fabled first rung, especially in a world where the egregious Jet have made a comeback.
Stu Gibson
Jeff Healey - Songs From The Road

If this CD / DVD is the kind of stuff that will be released from the archives since his demise last year then it serves as both a send off as well as a lesson / riposte to the snide releases that frequently squander the legacies of the great n' gone. It also helps that Healey didn't do a great deal to aid such operations, not exactly being noted for below par, off key n' kilter performances. In some areas that may have made him seem as staid and bored geography teacher-like as Clapton and Cray but not so. Here, recorded in Norway, one of the London's and hometown Toronto, Healey literally tears through a set of classics culled from the blues, rock'n'roll, psychedelia (Cream's White Room would make Jack Bruce stand in shame in the corner for eternity at the piss poor power-deprived trio version he treaded out on his own recent live album) all liberally interspersed with his trademark biting, barking and bullshit-less guitar breaks, that often spill over into Skynyrd style off road racing between him and t'other guitar (the equally electrically laudable Dan Noordermeer) and harpistrionic maestro. The guy had soul that swings through songs that are tired standards in most anyone's else's repertoire (Hoochie Coochie Man with a ridiculous bout of breathtaking guitar of the if my mouth opens any wider please come by my house, stick some dynamite in it and blow me up thanking ye kindly calibre, Stop Breaking Down and the fuckin' Beatles - though he does urinate from mystical heights that no Amahashhead Yogi could ever envisage on While My Guitar Gently Weeps). The DVD has a slew of different tracks too including Highway To Hell and Neil Young's Like A Hurricane. That The Mission even managed to do a far better version of this song should in no way belittle this one, Healey on top fart-about form. Colossal. Any little prick wanting to learn should start here from now on, it might at least make 'em stop before releasing a simperingly limp album of glossy slop.
Stu Gibson
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