Year 5, Day 5: The Tragically Hip – Music @ Work
- My Music at Work
- Tiger the Lion
- Lake Fever
- Putting Down
- The Bastard
- The Completists
- Freak Turbulence
- Toronto #4
- Wild Mountain Honey
- Train Overnight
- The Bear
- As I Wind Down the Pines
About the Album
Music @ Work is the seventh (full length) album from Canadian rock band, The Tragically Hip. The album was released on June 6th 2000, through Universal Music Canada. The album won the 2001 Juno Award for Best Rock Album. The album was certified double platinum in Canada.
Thoughts on the Album
Where to begin. Where to begin. The Tragically Hip are/were one of the biggest bands in Canada for over three decades. More commonly known as The Hip, they have been producing some of Canada’s most popular albums and songs to date. Not to mention they are arguably the most decorated Canadian rock band with multiple Canadian music awards, several albums peaking at number one in Canada, and several Juno Awards.
The Tragically Hip have always been a band that went heavy on wordplay, creating intelligent songs that require multiple listens to fully comprehend. Maybe that’s why they’ve struggled trying to finding a foothold south of the 49th Parallel, American listens don’t like to think when listening to music. Frontman Gord Downie‘s often cryptic lyrics are things to behold, which often times acts like a stream of consciousness.
So here we arrive at day five’s album, Music @ Work, an album that challenges the listener to think. It’s an album that followed a massively successful album in Phantom Power, and does not compromise on artistic integrity. The Hip could have (and as most American listeners would argue, should have) capitalized on their big market success with Phantom Power, but like poet Robert Frost, took the road less traveled. While the individual tracks on Music @ Work are not as compelling or gripping as songs from the previous album, the album as a whole is a more consistent one.
Tracks like The Bastard and Freak Turbulence are straightforward rockers, featuring guitar riffs and chords that swirl and thrash about, often times crashing into the pounding drums, creating this surreal experience and a seemingly sonic assault on the senses. Ballads like Toronto #4 and acoustic folk rock tunes like As I wind Down the Pines balance out the hard rockers very nicely.
It took me a while to get Music @ Work. And by “A while” I mean at listen listening through ten times. At first first listen, you’re experience will often be “huh, there’s nothing consistent with this! It’s strange!” But each subsequent listen has allowed me to hear the method to the madness. Tracks like Tiger the Lion and Sharks are prime examples. Two songs that are strange, but once you listen to them a few times, it makes sense in a “I just can’t explain it” way.
Now then, the titular track has a very Neil Young feel to it. It’s purposely left unpolished. My Music at Work‘s stream of consciousness style lyrics will ultimately have you thinking the same thing Downie was singing. The lyrics on My Music at Work are in contrast to the rest of the album with the rest of album having some rather dark views on the human condition. What My Music at Work highlights Downie trying to improve said condition by bringing his issues to light…
Everything is bleak,
It’s the middle of the night,
You’re all alone and the dummies might be right,
You feel like a jerk,
My music at work.
As I asked in the beginning, “where to begin?”, the “no duh” answer is “track one”. But that’s not it. Music @ Work is a complex work of music artistry. The variety on the album is a thing of beauty, and while most would say that’s what hurts this album, I disagree to an extend. Too much variety is a bad thing, but Music @ Work brings just enough variety were it is not too much. The album is a poetic one with artistic force behind it. The heady lyrics combined with the thrashing guitars and pounding drums just highlights it. The album has an undeniable uniqueness about it.
But it’s more than just an undeniable uniqueness… it’s an original.