The Tragically Hip’s new album, Man Machine Poem, dropped today. You probably won’t be reading about it on Pitchfork or Spin or Rolling Stone. But that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s ideal. The Kingston quintet was always meant to be Canada’s and Canada’s only; relatable to Alberta rednecks and Toronto snobsters alike; virtually invisible anywhere outside of our borders. And that’s how we like it.
We suggest you perform your patriotic duty and get acquainted with Man Machine Poem this weekend. With frontman Gord Downie facing terminal brain cancer, the Hip’s 13th record is its epilogue. It also happens to be their most challenging to date, equal parts downtempo, contemplative, and dark. Whether these tunes were penned before or after Downie received his diagnosis, it’s impossible to hear them outside of that context. To be sure, this album is sad as fuck. As it should be.
So, if you’re at all serious about being a Canuck, then it behooves you to stop by Shoppers Drug Mart on the way back from work, stock up on Kleenex, and bawl your eyes out while listening to this album. Then, watch one of the Hip’s last shows — either in person (if you can afford to) or via CBC (they announced today they’ll be broadcasting the Hip’s final show in Kingston) — and cry some more. Because nobody wants this to be the Hip’s last album or tour.
But you know what? We’re damn lucky we get to enjoy this swan song. And we’re damn lucky to have several decades’ worth of music this intrinsically woven into our nation’s cultural fabric. There will never be another band this Canadian. There will never be another Tragically Hip. So soak it in, Canada. Fully and completely.