Music » Livewire

The Tragically Hip

with Guster. Friday, July 14, at the Nautica Stage.

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Up in Canada, natives the Tragically Hip are huge. We're talking Britney Spears/Eminem/'N Sync kinda huge. The Hip sells tons of records, wins walls full of awards, and is more respected than fellow Canucks k.d. lang and Sarah McLachlan. Here in the States, the quintet is lucky to break into rock radio (which it has done less than a half-dozen times in its 14-year existence). Just between us, we really don't understand the allure (then again, we don't understand a lot about Canada: Jim Carrey, Barenaked Ladies, hockey). The Hip's tinny replication of '80s post-punk/pre-alt-rock styles doesn't exactly sound forced or insincere or anything like that -- it's just plain boring. The group's new album, Music@Work, is more muscular than its predecessors, but singer Gordon Downie still sounds thin beating up against the solid, heavy mix. Even "My Music at Work," possibly the best song the band has ever recorded, can't help but drift into shoulder-shrugging territory by the end of its economical three minutes. Chunky riffs, airy hooks, and charisma-free tunes are not the recipe for good songs, and on Music@Work, it really does sound like the Tragically Hip is laboring. Still, some audiences go for this sort of thing, and the Hip has been a fixture of the club and arena scene long enough to have honed its chops. So, at the very least, professionalism is in store, even if revelatory music isn't.

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