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The Tragically Hip – Phantom Power (1998)

August 5, 2016

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When speaking of years, many tend to rely on the acronyms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini), thus dividing the passage of time into 2 categories, with everything classified as occurring either before or after a singular significant event, the birth of Christ.

With The Hip discography, I’m beginning to believe a similar classification system applies. I therefore propose the acronyms BPP (Before Phantom Power) and APP (After Phantom Power), with Phantom Power representing the equivalent of Year 0. Granted, this timeline proposition is a theory replete with holes/cherry-picked data. But to borrow a Gord Downie line, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it  🙂

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Phantom Power

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Why is Phantom Power the singular significant, era-defining & dividing event in their career?

1. Conveniently, it represents the midpoint in my TTH collection.
So symmetrically…

2. It’s likely the album where Hip fans of all ages can see eye-to-eye.
Ask someone who saw The Hip perform at a Kingston high school dance back in the day. Ask someone who’s still in high school. Chances are, no other album in the catalogue will be as universally appreciated.

3. It’s a wonderfully representative sample of both Before & After.
It simultaneously sounds like new & old Hip, in a balance that no preceding record could & no subsequent record would. Which may curiously make Phantom Power, the catalogue midpoint, the optimal starting point for Hip exploration.

4. One fan’s gateway is another fan’s swan song.
Take any of the 3 big singles (Poets, Bobcaygeon, Fireworks); you can fill-in-the-blanks & practically hear the familiar comments aloud, “They haven’t been the same since ______,” or, “ever since I heard ______, I’ve been a fan.”

5. Change was inevitable.
Over a decade into their recording career, they’d proven they weren’t going to record the same record over and over again. With this recording, The Before Phantom Power (BPP) era was officially closed, a new era was on the horizon.

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Would albums in the APP (After Phantom Power) era be better or worse?

Well, both. And neither. And they would be noticeably different.**

We’d just have to wait and see what Album 1/Year 2 of the APP era would bring.

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*It’s worth noting, Phantom Power shouldn’t be misconstrued as a ‘compromise’ record,  one of those albums that everybody likes, but nobody really loves. Because many, many, many fans (myself included) really, really, really do.

**But some things will never change. Regardless of the era, I’m a fan. Carried away by the club’s long-term Membership.

P1110211

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hipThe Hip Tour/My Post Schedule

Jul 22 2016 The Hip played: Victoria, BC. I played: The Tragically Hip (1987)
Check out these TTH (1987) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Jul 24 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I played: Up to Here (1989)
Check out these Up to Here (1989) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Jul 26 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I played: Road Apples (1991)
Check out these Road Apples (1991) reviews by: Brian, Aaron, Deke

Jul 28 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I played: Fully Completely (1992)
Check out these Fully Completely (1992) reviews by: Brian, Aaron, Sarca

Jul 30 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I played: Day for Night (1994)
Check out these Day for Night (1994) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Aug 1 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I played: Trouble at the Henhouse (1996)
Check out these Trouble at the Henhouse (1996) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Aug 3 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I played: Live Between Us (1997)
Check out these Live Between Us (1997) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Aug 5 2016 The Hip plays: Winnipeg, MB. I play: Phantom Power (1998)
Check out these Phantom Power (1998) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Aug 8 2016 The Hip plays: London, ON. I play: Music at Work (2000)

Aug 10 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Violet Light (2002)

Aug 12 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Between Evolution (2004)

Aug 14 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: World Container (2006)

Aug 16 2016 The Hip plays: Hamilton, ON. I play: We are the Same (2009)

Aug 18 2016 The Hip plays: Ottawa, ON. I play: Now for Plan A (2012)

Aug 20 2016 The Hip plays: Kingston, ON. I play: Man Machine Poem (2016)

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33 Comments
  1. A block of tickets to the Man Machine Poem tour should have been given to The Hip Club members. perhaps sales 1 hour before the rest of us.
    I get the BPP and the APP. They changed, but so did we. As a whole their discography is amazing though.

    All I can hope for is a AMMP era. After Man Machine Poem era. Perhaps albums and even a tour or two. I know I’m selfish, but I don’t want them to leave yet.

    • And based on MMP, they certainly haven’t run out of great albums either.
      That’s what I’m realizing as I revisit, us changing has as much to do with feelings about the music as any band evolution does!

      • I forget which musician it was, and the exact quote, but he basically said that we do not make albums strictly to make fans happy. We have to make ourselves happy as well.
        I spoke with Ian Blurton recently. I asked him to sign my copy of Steelteeth by his band Change Of Heart(review someday), and I told him I loved the album. He said “Really? A ton of fans HATED that album.” That comment set me back. I had no idea. I mentioned to him that his band had to make themselves happy and put out the music they wanted. I assume the fans wanted more like the earlier albums.
        The Hip refused to make Fully Completely versions 1-8. Those may have sold better, but then people would complain they all sound the same. There is no winning. I love them. Some I just love more than others. Many gave up on the band sometime after 1995, but so be it. Like them, love them, or hate them, they are Canada’s band right now.

      • It’s neat to see all the places that are having screenings of the August 20th show – I’ve heard of them happening in libraries, churches, arenas, town squares, Canada’s Band for sure!
        You can’t be everything to everyone, I’m glad the hip didn’t try. I’d enjoy reading that Change of Heart review!

      • Thanks for the influence to revisit these albums over again in a more analytical sort of way. I am really enjoying them as well.

      • My pleasure!

      • I am going to see it at a small town arena. They will be having screens inside and out.
        My parents who are in their 70’s, are country fans and do not know 1 Hip song want to go. I suspect infants to 90 year olds there. Perhaps not all Hip fans, but all joined to both celebrate with fellow Canadians and all give Cancer a great big screw you.

      • And that is something I think all of us Canucks can get behind – it’s pretty amazing how that horrifying news in May has evolved into this celebratory, unifying event.

  2. Great angle and your right about it being the able of the divide in fan base as i mentioned to you this was the case for me as i love Steve Berlins production on this record…
    I still bought there stuff after as well mind u but it went until i heard the song about the Polar Bear Named Gus that it intrigued me to dig deeper into there newer material….

    • At the time, Gus actually was a bit of a deterrent for me – I quite like it now though!
      Thanks Deke – you have a much better ear for producers than I did, I think I only started noticing the producer for the Hip when Bob Rock was at the helm – until that point, I always just thought the band sort of did what they did. But upon revisiting, there’s a different sound depending on who was there in the studio with them!

      • Yeah totally Geoff. I think out of all the guys they worked with Don Smith and Steve Berlin I thought captured there sound brilliantly…..

  3. Love love love Phantom Power! Funny, I always thought somewhat similar to you, about this one – the last record all agreed on… Music @ Work was (reportedly) rushed out, and didn’t have the same oomph. People were getting off the bus after Fully Completely, so the stragglers were off the bus by Phantom Power. Only us hardcore fans were along for the whole ride!

    I was saying on Bop’s coment section, I remember getting this record clearly – I bought it new release day in Toronto as I was there visiting my lovely girlfriend (now lovely wife). We played the whole thing later that day and it was a great, great, great record from the get-go.

    Superb post as always, sir!

    • Very much appreciated as always Aaron! I can’t remember this purchase for some reason – can totally visualize the when/where/who I was with for buying DFN/TATH/LBU & Music @ Work, but this one escapes me. Early favourites for me were Something On & of course Fireworks. Now on any given day, most of the 12 tracks are contenders for that ‘favourite’ designation – Your former lovely girlfriend/current lovely wife has impeccable taste!

  4. This reminds me of Green by R.E.M. in that it represents the sound of the old and new. Another fine post, Geoff …

    • I think that’s a really apt comparison J – like Out of Time, the next album would have some standout tracks, and an Automatic for the People-esque one followed that!

      • Hopefully it doesn’t have the low points that Out Of Time does (I’m not much of a fan of that album, I’m afraid!)

      • Fortunately Michael Stipe & friends bounced back on the next one!

  5. Actually I got Aaron to thank for getting me back into Phantom Power recently and with your review Geoff its a win win situation! Thanks Guys!

  6. Jenn permalink

    This particular Hip album, more than any of the others, is very tied to time and place for me, probably because it was so tied to early university experiences. I can’t hear it without other sense memories from the time coming up. I think that’s a testament to the album as an experience itself. It is very evocative. I also think this is when I started really appreciating Gord Downie as a storyteller and poet. I love this one.

    • I could see Phantom Power working exceptionally well on the East coast!
      I was very pleased to hear something on make an appearance during Saturday’s show

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Tragically Hip – Music @ Work (2000) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. The Tragically Hip – In Violet Light (2002) | 1001albumsin10years
  3. The Tragically Hip – In Between Evolution (2004) | 1001albumsin10years
  4. The Tragically Hip – World Container (2006) | 1001albumsin10years
  5. The Tragically Hip – We are the Same (2009) | 1001albumsin10years
  6. The Tragically Hip – Now for Plan A (2012) | 1001albumsin10years
  7. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem (2016) | 1001albumsin10years
  8. Top 5 “I’m Grateful For…” | 1001albumsin10years

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