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The Tragically Hip – In Violet Light (2002)

August 10, 2016


If Music @ Work was a front-loaded record, In Violet Light opted to save the best for last.

There’s still strength early on: The Darkest One is textbook Hip & It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken has one of my favourite song structures of any song, period.

And as per usual, the lyrics are a major selling point. This time, they’re particularly instructional, while still being as mysterious and as lovely as Rob Baker’s In Violet Light cover painting.

In Violet Light


While each of the first nine tracks has its merits, the last two tracks, The Dire Wolf and The Dark Canuck, are two of the band’s strongest ever.

Beginning with the ending track, The Dark Canuck, this may be the most intriguing closer in the catalogue. At 6:24, it’s also the second longest studio track in the discography. Thanks to the complete changing of gears at the 3-minute mark (in addition to the song’s general excellence), it’s my second favourite In Violet Light track.


The penultimate track, The Dire Wolf, has a whole poetic layer (inspired by Wallace Stevens’ Sea Surface Full of Clouds) that I’m likely not even close to fully appreciating. Even still, and my interpretations are undoubtedly miles from the original intent, there are a few Dire Wolf lines that really speak to me.

“Better boats been done by less water”
The perils of underestimating an opponent/a situation.

“Close to nowhere and halfway across”
Ano man’s land’ feeling I think I’ll have many times while attempting to complete the 1001 albums list.

“You were never more here”
By 2002, I was starting to listen to a lot of different music, priorities were starting to shift. I still loved The Hip, but it wasn’t the same ‘scribbling lyrics on my binder’ kind of unwavering devotion. However, when I hear The Dire Wolf, I’m transported back to earlier times when I was never more there. A trip that inevitably results in goosebumps for me & gratitude to The Hip for writing such a powerful song.


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 played: Phantom Power (1998)
Check out these Phantom Power (1998) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Aug 8 2016 The Hip plays: London, ON. I play: Music @ Work (2000)
Check out these Music @ Work (2000) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Aug 10 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Violet Light (2002)
Check out these In Violet Light (2002) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

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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  1. I have this but man its been years since I listened to it. Like yourself my tastes had shifted or was I becoming a Critical F^&K? I still supported these guys by buying product but it was becoming tough sledding getting through some of these albums. The Bar was set so high with the first 4 albums in my opinion and perhaps I need to give them a fair shake now especially as your bringing them back to (Violet ) Light…
    You and Aaron though totally got me back onboard with Phantom Power so I guess anything can happen!
    Great review…..

    • Nice Light wordplay!
      It’s the next album where I really started to drift at the time, but a revisit got k me back on board there, so hopefully a trip back here will work for you too.
      I think you’d dig the closing track, The Dark Canuck, especially Deke!

  2. Great post, Geoff! To use your analogy, for myself, I never stopped doodling Hip on my binder…

    Great point about the vocabulary. Gord’s always chosen the best words, but as they’ve gone on and his art has progressed, he has tried just about everything. He never talks down, with the bigger words, but in the way of the best teachers, he just assumes we’re worthy and therefore we are!

    This may seem lazy, but I’m just gonna yank from my own post on this album as being still my thoughts on it:

    ‘This is a perfectly realized, undeniably brilliant record on par with anything the band has ever done. If this were your first taste of the Hip, you would be so impressed and amazed you’d run right out and buy everything else and never look back. Having been a fan for as long as I have, it’s dangerously easy to slip and take these tracks for granted. That’s why it’s good to step back every now and then, remind ourselves just how lucky we are to have this band in our lives.’

    • The binder doodle really is the ultimate sign of affection!
      Yes, yes, yes Aaron about the way Gord chooses his vocab – it’s never, look what I can do, it’s just here it is, you’re worthy!
      And I wouldn’t call the copying there lazy – I’d say it’s a good sign that your feelings about the album continue to ring true, if not even stronger today!

      • Haha doodles. I also used to buy pencil cases specifically based on their doodle-ability. I sometimes think I doodled more than I took notes, in school. It’s why I was such a stellar student. Especially with vocabulary. 😉

        As for ringing true, I always feel that way about the Hip. Anytime, anywhere, I’ll listen to ’em and love ’em and always find something new in songs I’ve heard a thousand times. No matter where I am in life, they just keep on giving.

  3. I think I may like this one better than you from front to back.

    I love your passion on the songs you like best

    • Thanks Brian – I remember on Music @ Work, you said the difference between good and great tracks was getting wider, which I’d agree. Here, the reason I think there’s a gap is not due to the weakness of any tracks, more just the sheer strength of some of the others!

      • The same good be said between a lesser Hip tune compared to a lesser song from.a.mere mortsl band.

  4. Nice review (again), Geoff. I have the last couple lines up for the commute tomorrow. Hopefully fit one or two in tonight, too!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Tragically Hip – World Container (2006) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. The Tragically Hip – We are the Same (2009) | 1001albumsin10years
  3. The Tragically Hip – Now for Plan A (2012) | 1001albumsin10years
  4. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem (2016) | 1001albumsin10years
  5. Top 5 “I’m Grateful For…” | 1001albumsin10years

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