"Their music was played at every party, bush bash, and camp fire you would go to": Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip - Album Of The Week Club review

The Tragically Hip's third album Fully Completely was dominated by Canadian themes, propelling the band on their way to becoming 'Canada's Band'

The Tragically Hip - Fully Completely cover art
(Image: © MCA)

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The Tragically Hip - Fully Completely

The Tragically Hip - Fully Completely cover art

(Image credit: MCA)

Courage (for Hugh MacLennan)
Looking for a Place to Happen
At the Hundredth Meridian
Pigeon Camera
Locked in the Trunk of a Car
We'll Go, Too
Fully Completely
Fifty Mission Cap
Wheat Kings
The Wherewithal

Having formed as college friends in Kingston in 1984, The Tragically Hip's formative years of relentlessly touring the bars and clubs of Ontario had shaped then into a genuine force to be reckoned with.

The band's brand of blues rock was infused with the collegiate charm of R.E.M., the roadhouse grit of Midnight Oil and The The, and the melodic sprightliness of The Smiths. Out front, singer Gord Downie was a gripping showman, equal parts Michael Stipe and Michael Hutchence. He’d stun audiences with cryptic lyricism, live-wire behaviour, stories, speeches, impromptu David Bowie covers or debuts of new songs. 

By 1992’s third album Fully Completely, Canadian themes began to dominate. Fifty Mission Cap paid tribute to Toronto Maple Leafs ice-hockey player Bill Barilko, who died in a float-plane crash in 1951; Courage (For Hugh McLennan) honoured the titular Montreal author; Locked In The Trunk Of A Car was a killer’s eye view of the kidnap and murder of Quebec’s deputy premier Pierre Laporte in 1970; Wheat Kings concerned the 23-year false imprisonment of Winnipeg’s David Milgaard for murder. 

There were songs of deep pride, too – Looking For A Place To Happen scoured Canada for the perfect home, and At The Hundredth Meridian saw Downie wishing to be buried "where the great plains begin".

“As a Canadian band, we watched all our Canadian heroes – the Neil Youngs and Joni Mitchells and Leonard Cohens – they all had to go south, cross the border to have a career,” guitarist Rob Baker told Classic Rock. “We watched all these Canadian wannabes sing about their experience at Hollywood High or surfing USA and all that kind of bullshit. It never rang true for any of us, so I think Gord wanted to write about the Canadian experience. 

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Other albums released in October 1992

  • Duh - Lagwagon
  • Angel Heart - Bonnie Tyler
  • Automatic for the People - R.E.M.
  • Grave Dancers Union - Soul Asylum
  • Just Look Around - Sick of It All
  • Our Time In Eden - 10,000 Maniacs
  • Push - Gruntruck
  • Liar - The Jesus Lizard
  • Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds - Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
  • Piece of Cake - Mudhoney
  • Ignition - The Offspring
  • Carnival of Carnage - Insane Clown Posse
  • Jehovahkill - Julian Cope
  • Main Offender - Keith Richards
  • Smeared - Sloan


What they said...

The astuteness of Wheat Kings comes off as one of their best slow songs, once again elevated from Gord Downie's peculiar unequivocalness. Letting Downie glide into each song with his complex philosophical idioms was a step in the right direction, a feat that was almost mastered on 1991's Road Apples, but fell just inches short. The Tragically Hip prove on Fully Completely that their level of maturity and musical craftsmanship have finally come to fruition." (AllMusic)

"Mixing different styles like the sleek, driving rock sound to acoustic to alt rock and pop, The Hip really reached their peak with this record and would only build on it with 1994’s Day for Night. And though this might never get the attention it deserves south of the border and the lyrics may not be entirely relatable to non-Canucks, this album can be appreciated by any fan of rock." (Sputnik Music)

"Fully Completely is where Kingston, Ontario's Tragically Hip finally come to the apex of their talent. Lead singer Gord Downie sounds crisp and full of life, and the songs he verbally dramatizes are rich in lyrical sharpness and instrumental color. With more than half of this album's songs being released to Canadian radio, it established the Hip as a mainstream contender and rescued them from their bar band persona." (Pop Music)


What you said...

Mike Canoe: A friend from Toronto turned me onto The Tragically Hip after mailing me the soundtrack to the Trailer Park Boys movie (she had also turned me onto the show). The CD included Bobcaygeon and I emailed her what an awesome song that was and she responded "Oh yeah. The Hip are great. They're like the national band of Canada."

It's easy to pick up on that vibe from the lyrics of Fully Completely. Listening to the album felt like auditing a course on Canadian history taught by an inscrutable lyricist with, fortunately, an excellent and accessible bunch of musicians.

After my friend's endorsement, I bought the two-disc compilation Yer Favorites, which as the name implies, had songs chosen by fans and more than half of Fully Completely made the cut. It's not surprising to hear why. Even if I didn't know the backstory, both the narrative and music were compelling (Looking For A Place to Happen, Fifty Mission Cap, Locked in the Trunk of a Car). Sometimes just singer Gord Downie's delivery was enough like on the title track or Wheat Kings.

In conclusion, a cool album by a cool band that, by everything I've seen and heard, deserves the title, "the National band of Canada."

Chris Elliott: A pleasant if not earth shattering listen. It grows on you and it's generally a decent album. It is very much of its time - it wears its influences a bit too much in places (the Neil Young clone bit is close to cliche) - it's very college rock but pleasantly off centre and it drifts into something more interesting in places although equally it just chugs along in other places. It has echoes of Midnight Oil in feel.

Chris Webb: Can't beat the 1-2 punch of Up To Here and Road Apples, but Fully Completely is also a fantastic listen.

I feel the Neil Young and R.E.M. comparisons are a bit lazy, they were much more distinct. Definitely a band, and an album, for people who appreciate songwriting and interesting lyrics

Gord Downie's songwriting is cinematic in scope and Bobby Baker is a seriously underrated guitar player – he has blues chops and adds texture with generous helpings of slide guitar and alternate tunings.

Great band, great album – and it's arguably not even their best.

Greg Schwepe: Hitting the 'Play' button on Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely totally brought me back to 1992. For one, that’s because it was released then… duh! Two, because this album has the same exact vibe of the other alternative stuff I was listening to at the time. So, instantly it sounded familiar and refreshing. There still is a long standing alternative rock station where I live that most likely would’ve played The Tragically Hip, but I just wasn’t paying attention. Appears that was my loss.

Crunchy guitar, sing along choruses, solid backbeat… I can already tell I will listen to this again after I play all the way through for the review.

As I go through each song it’s a quick “dang, I Iike that one too” and I’m too lazy to do the song by song review this week. 8 out 10 for this one and I am on my way to checking out more of this band. I can see how fans become ardent followers. Thanks Canada!

Alex Hayes: No long winded review necessary this week. After just one play through of Fully Completely, I was able to come to two separate conclusions:

1) I can understand why The Tragically Hip are treated almost like national heroes in their native Canada.

2) I also realised very quickly that this album wasn't for me.

I would very loosely categorise The Tragically Hip as a kind of Canadian version of R.E.M. That may have been okay for me in 1995, but it definitely isn't now. This album strays way too far into jingly-jangly alt-rock territory for my tastes. I can go with the flow with many different areas of rock and metal, but anything with a whiff of 'indie' is immediately out the door. I just can not get into these types of bands.

Jim Husk: I am Canadian, living in Western Canada. The Hip are one of our nation's musical treasures. Gord Downie's lyrics are deeply routed and connected to Canadian issues and history which allows for the listener to be transported to a special time and place. The way they wove their lyrics with their excellent musicianship makes this album a pleasurable listen from start to finish. Although the world doesn't see a 'hit on this album, Courage, At the Hundredth Meridian, Wheat Kings and Fully Completed are instantly recognisable in Canada. We love the Hip. I hope others discover the wonder of the Hip.

David Clancy: My favourite Hip album. A great album in my book

Paul Mackrell: Fantastic album that gets better with age.

Zak Torzewski: Amazing band. Wheat Kings is a favourite, but the whole album is great.

Kevin Dolan: I always recommend this as the first Hip album for someone who is just getting into them.

Mark Swinford: Love the Hip. This album is great but probably #3 behind Road Apples and Phantom Power for me.

Stav Au-Dag: World Container is their best record with every song a jam! The rest of the albums have between two and six good ones.

Wesley Rodney: Their best album. Every song is a hit single in an alternative universe where life is fair. I was surprised to see it was produced by Chris Tsangarides who I knew as a metal producer. I don't think they were ever captured that well ever again.

Roger Smith: A classic.

Jason Hogarth: As a Canadian growing up listening to the Hip I am a big fan. I have seen them countless times and love their music. Their music was played at every party, bush bash, and camp fire you would go to. They created an atmosphere and I still remember good times when I hear them. They are incredible storey tellers.

John Davidson: I'm sorry I didn't discover these guys in 1992/93 because I probably would have really liked them. I was well into REM and Cranberries at the time (alongside Pearl Jam, Metallica and Rubicon... what can I say? My tastes varied).

Listening to them now they sound good but beyond the opener, Courage\ none of the tracks really stand out. That said its very listenable and I'll give it a few more spins through the week but at the moment while I can't explain why they didn't get a break in the USA (plenty less talented bands did), I can also understand why it didn't – there is nothing jumping up to lift them out of the ranks of the very good and propel them into the stratosphere. A 7/10 at the moment.

Wade Babineau: The Hip are indeed a national treasure in Canada with the albums, songs and lyrics have taken on even more meaning amongst fans with the passing of singer Gord Downie in 2017.

A very “Canadian” album indeed. Courage references Canadian author Hugh MacLennan, and was inspired by his novel The Watch That Ends The Night. Looking For A Place to Happen deals with the subject of European encroachment and the eventual annexation of indigenous lands in North America, making specific reference to explorer Jacques Cartier. At The Hundredth Meridian references the line of longitude that separates much of Western Canada from the Central and Atlantic regions of Canada.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bill Barilko scored the winning goal in overtime for the Leafs to win the Stanley Cup in 1952. As the song says, he disappeared on a fishing trip and Leafs did not win another championship until his body was discovered in 1962. The title Fifty Mission Cap comes from the caps given to elite bomber pilots during the Second World War.

The song Wheat Kings is mainly about David Milgaard. Milgaard, who was from Saskatchewan, was wrongly convicted of murder and served over 20 years in prison before being released. Wheat kings are the nicknames for those giant wheat silos you see on farms in Western Canada. The line “sundown in the Paris of the Prairies” is a reference to the city of Saskatoon, Known as the "Paris of the Prairies" for its eight bridges that span the South Saskatchewan River.

Songs Pigeon Camera, the title track and The Wherewithal were all live favourites as well. Not many rock bands from Canada would tackle as much Canadian lyrical content as the Hip did and its why they are beloved by many from here. Highly recommend the albums Road Apples, Day For Night, Phantom Power and in Violet Light as well for listeners to check out. Fully Completely gets the 10/10 from this Canuck.

Adam Ranger: Heard of these guys but never listened to them before now. What I hear on the first two tracks are elements of REM and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. None of these comparisons are a bad thing as I love both artists.

The songs here are well crafted good interplay between guitar and bass and drums. Each song moves along very pleasingly. I'm guessing some of the lyrics were pertinent to events happening in Canada or US at the time, but I have to confess on first listen I am not always sure what they are about.

However, none of that matters. This album is good. I can imagine listening to it on a long car journey tapping the steering wheel and nodding my head in appreciation. I now must investigate more if this band. Not sure why they passed me by in the 90s.


Final score: 7.74 (48 votes cast, total score 367)

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