To folks south of the border – Canada’s – the Tragically Hip might’ve seemed little more than R.E.M. manqué folk-rockers with Gordon Lightfoot/Robbie Robertson/Stan Rogers storytelling proclivities. Up north, of course, they’d grown over 30-plus years into Canuck culture icons, and with frontman Gord Downie’s recent death from brain cancer at age 53, the tragedy of this rough-hewn, meditative, personal parting shot – produced in collaboration with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew – is that it spotlights a master talent just as the door closed behind him.
life flashes before a man’s eyes, wistful scenes of winter landscapes and indie
rock memories. Over brooding piano and a churning groove, “My First
Girlfriend” rhapsodizes about a bookish older gal who opened his mind and
(literally) saved his life; “Snowflake” isolates a quintessential
Canadian image, matter-of-factly wresting it back from right-wing pundits. The
title track is a simple, deeply touching story of a tattoo, a thank-you to the
person who inspired it, revealing a spirit who devoted his life to connecting.
He’s gone now, but look: He’s still doing it.