Entertainment

The Tragically Hip: Rating all of the band's studio albums

By Darryl Sterdan, Special to Postmedia Network

Members of The Tragically Hip (left to right) Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, Gord Downie, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker are shown in a handout photo.

Members of The Tragically Hip (left to right) Gord Sinclair, Paul Langlois, Gord Downie, Johnny Fay and Rob Baker are shown in a handout photo.

With Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip now out on what could be their final tour, there’s no better time to rewind their studio catalogue:

The Tragically Hip EP (1987)

Humble origins with the seeds of greatness. The former is found in the raw basement-band jangle-rock; the latter in Downie’s manic energy, idiosyncratic lyrics and baritone bray.

HIGHLIGHTS: Small Town Bringdown; Highway Girl; Last American Exit

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Up to Here (1989)

“They shot a movie once in my hometown.” A classic opening line — followed by a great disc that showcases sharper, tighter songwriting and a southern roots-rock and blues vibe.

HIGHLIGHTS: Blow at High Dough; New Orleans Is Sinking; 38 Years Old

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Road Apples (1991)

Word is they wanted to call it Saskadelphia. Between all the twin-guitar twang, swaggering grooves and Gord’s increasingly enigmatic work, Albertassippi would also have worked.

HIGHLIGHTS: Little Bones; Three Pistols; On the Verge

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Fully Completely (1992)

It all comes together here. Both Downie and the band refine their approach, find home-grown artistic voices, and create a virtually flawless work of Canadiana in the process.

HIGHLIGHTS: Locked in the Trunk of a Car, Fifty Mission Cap, Courage (For Hugh MacLennan), At the Hundredth Meridian, Looking for a Place to Happen

RATING: 5 (out of 5)

Day for Night (1994)

The Hip go deep. Darker, more poignant and slow-burning than its predecessors, the band’s longest release eschews commerciality to explore new sonic and creative horizons.

HIGHLIGHTS: Grace, Too; Nautical Disaster; Inevitability of Death

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Trouble at the Henhouse (1996)

“The blues are still required,” sings Gord. Indeed. Trouble continues the introspective, investigative nature of its predecessor, as evident in biggest hit Ahead by a Century.

HIGHLIGHTS: Ahead by a Century; Gift Shop; Springtime in Vienna

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Phantom Power (1998)

Slightly more power than phantoms. Crisper and more focused songs, stronger melodies and a renewed sense of energy help the band close out the ’90s on a strong high note.

HIGHLIGHTS: Bobcaygeon; Thompson Girl; Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man; Poets

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Music @ Work (2000)

Hey, they can’t all be classics. Offering few standouts and fewer hits (save the title single), this forgettable offering is basically Tragically Hip by the numbers. A rare stumble.

HIGHLIGHTS: My Music at Work; Tiger the Lion; Freak Turbulence

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

In Violet Light (2002)

The good news: It’s slightly more inspired and intriguing than its predecessor. The bad news: It’s a front-loaded set that’s still a long way from the band’s classic mid-’90s form.

HIGHLIGHTS: Are You Ready; ‘It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken’; Silver Jet

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

In Between Evolution (2004)

It may not be evolution, but it’s a step in the right direction. The band’s slow creative upswing continues, thanks to a handful of energized cuts and Stonesy rockers.

HIGHLIGHTS: Vaccination Scar; Heaven is a Better Place Today; Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

World Container (2006)

And we’re back! Superstar producer Bob Rock helps the band turn in their biggest, boldest, brightest and sharpest disc in nearly a decade — and their poppiest single in In View

HIGHLIGHTS: In View; The Lonely End of the Rink; Yer Not the Ocean

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

We Are the Same (2009)

Well, yes and no. Instead of continuing World Container’s momentum, the Hip head in the opposite direction with quieter and prettier songs, fuelled by acoustic guitars and strings.

HIGHLIGHTS: Morning Moon; Love is a First; Speed River

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Now for Plan A (2012)

Back to Square 1 would also do. The band’s shortest disc finds them resurrecting the scrappy rock and wiry jangle of old while retaining some of their more recent dusky intimacy.

HIGHLIGHTS: At Transformation; Streets Ahead; Man Machine Poem

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Man Machine Poem (2016)

Written and recorded before Downie’s diagnosis and artfully produced, the Hip’s 14th (and perhaps final) studio release is a masterpiece of dark beauty and sonic adventurousness.

HIGHLIGHTS: In a World Possessed by the Human Mind; Hot Mic; Great Soul

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Twitter: @darryl_sterdan

dsterdan@postmedia.com