The Tragically Hip

Perhaps Canadian rockers The Tragically Hip should have thought up a different name. Despite considerable popularity and critical acclaim in America's 51st state, the rootsy group failed to find a widely accepting audience in the lower 48. Staunchly traditional and unflinchingly resolute in its aim to avoid label corruptions, the band never really played to either side of the American musical divide. Straightforward rock and roll with a slight Southern twist was just not edgy enough to find a comfortable home on college-radio dials, yet the band's refusal to pander to wider audiences by dumbing down singer-songwriter Gord Downie's philosophically inclined lyrics and poetic delivery has kept the Hip largely out of the mainstream. Its most recent release, this year's We Are the Same, comes as a bit of an aptly titled surprise. The Hip has shrugged away most of its raw rock-and-roll persona, swathing most tracks in an overpoweringly radio-friendly blandness that reeks of pandering. It's really a shame, especially considering the fact that the raw, rootsy paradigm the band has employed thus far is actually experiencing a bit of a renaissance. If the Hip would only return to its roots, it might just live up to its name.

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