CD Review of We Are the Same by The Tragically Hip
The Tragically Hip: We Are the Same
Recommended if you like
Big Head Todd & the Monsters,
Widespread Panic,
The Freddy Jones Band
Label
Zoe
The Tragically Hip:
We Are the Same

Reviewed by Neil Carver

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A
fter 26 years together, 11 studio albums and a reputation as one of the best live shows ever, it is a true sign of greatness that the Tragically Hip’s 12th album sounds as fresh, strong and relevant as anything they’ve ever done.

We Are the Same continues where 2006’s World Container left off, still growing the "big sound" brought about by their ongoing association with producer Bob Rock. Where World Container pushed them to the higher and harder edges of anthemic rock, they clearly haven’t forgotten their country influences and lush arrangements. "Morning Moon" starts off with quiet acoustic strumming that bursts into full country electric paralleling the dawn sun that illuminates its cold sister. Gordon Downing states it plainly, "The sun is a light bulb and the moon is a mirror," one that reflects our disappointments but still lights up our hopes.

Paul Langlois and Rob Baker continue to excel in creating a wonderfully layered, glittering wash of guitars that are most evident on songs like "Honey, Please" and "Coffee Girl," the most pop, and arguably best two tracks on the album. In balance to the upbeat and powerfully emotive music the lyrics on We Are the Same move away from an introspective bent, taking a more commentary role on the wider world. This unblinking but never harsh study of the state of life is the key theme throughout We Are the Same. This comes to a focus on the longest tracks at the center of the album, "Now the Struggle Has a Name" and "The Depression Suite." These songs pass no judgments on what is seen because the Hip aren’t standing outside and looking in. Our lives are their lives. "Are you going through something? Cause I am too. Gimme gimme gimme an opportunity," sings Downing, standing alongside everyone whose life has been turned upside down by the last decade of war and economic upheaval.

Not that they’ve failed to recognize what is good and rewarding in life. No matter what difficulties they might see, the Hip haven’t forgotten the beauty of the ordinary life lived and loved well. "Queen of the Furrows" is a beautiful and rocking guitar ballad sung to the ideal farmer’s wife. In fact, both of the songs focusing on love are the hardest rocking of them all. "Love Is a First" is a spoken and shouted refutation of disillusionment and an adamant statement on the generative power of love.

We Are the Same comes full circle with the closing track "Country Day." Here they draw a conclusion to what was started with "Morning Moon." Whatever hopes and doubts began in that sunrise, here we find the satisfaction and resolve of the everyman who has worked hard for another day and looks forward to the challenges and possibilities that the next morning will bring. We Are the Same works like that. Put it on repeat and let it cycle through. That is when you realize that this is the soundtrack for all of us, day in and day out. It tells all of our stories with a realistic eye, poignant joy and a happy enthusiasm that belies the age of cynicism it chronicles. The Tragically Hip find a way to sound young after a quarter of a century because they have outgrown the angst and youthful rage most would direct at our times and focus on what is truly important. We should all listen closely.

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