The Tragically Hip: Now For Plan A

Evergreen Canadians are still hip-notic.

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If art-rock lives, it lives in Canada. Leading lights since 1983, the Ontario band known as ‘The Hip’ in their homeland don’t need replacing yet. Their 13th album pulls off their trick of sounding like nothing especially radical or daring, yet boasting an intangible, indefinable tug of emotion and edgy magic.

Much of this is down to Gordon Downie’s voice, ringing with a fusion of artifice and intimacy, meaning you want to hear whatever story he’s telling. When he switches from muttering I’m-so-alternative verse to hear-me-roar we’re-so-anthemic chorus, it’s a challenge not to punch the air. His lyrics bear scrutiny too.

At Transformation has you talking about the passion from the first surge: indeed this is the kind of wiry and wired (yet warm) song one wishes REM had delivered in later years. There’s scarcely a moment where anyone is dozing, but best of all is About This Map, which drives in on a wave of intensity then builds into a tsunami of same, with Downie testifying. The Hip still rip it up.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.