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26 October 2009 @ 11:48 pm
Song of the Week: #66: The Tragically Hip "Nautical Disaster" (live)  
This was finished last week and I was supposed to add a gig review this weekend, but alas time moves too quickly sometimes. Here’s the gig review: Amazing – these guys are brilliant (how’s that for short and sweet?).

“Like exiles from the Canada’s of your soul” – I always loved this opening line from their 1999 Woodstock performance.

As you know, my musical soul has many roots in Canada with the likes of Rush, Tara MacLean, Aldo Nova, Great Big Sea, Triumph, Our Lady Peace, The Hip, Max Webster, Saga, April Wine, Chantal Kreviazuk, Lawrence Gowan, Barenaked Ladies, Honeymoon Suite, Matthew Good, Tom Cochrane/Red Rider, Alannah Myles, Glass Tiger, Sarah McLachlan, Jann Arden, etc.

The Hip for me began in 1991 with a photo of Geddy Lee of Rush in a Tragically Hip t-shirt – who was this band that Geddy was so into? Then the arrival of The Hip’s 1992 release Fully Completely landing at the studio of WRHO at Hartwick College – on vinyl no less! I fired up the lead track on my radio show that evening and that was the beginning. “Courage” drew me in and that night I listened to the rest of the album and was sold. My good friend Chris was already hip to the Hip of course and just fueled my interest over the years with stories of classic shows and amazing set lists. I couldn’t make it see them with Chris in 1995 at the Egg in Albany - which he has remarked was the best show he’s seen them play in the 50+ odd shows he’s seen. Again in 1996 I couldn’t make a show in Syracuse, leaving a Photo Pass and tickets at Will Call unclaimed, after having interviewed guitarist Paul Langlois on-air before soundcheck. With the release of their 2000 album, Music @ Work, I moderated an online chat with Gord Downie which was an absolute blast. Finally in August of 2000 I saw them in Hartford, fittingly with Chris, and again 2 more times that fall in Syracuse (the only time I haven’t met them) & Albany. A couple more times in 2004 and 2007 at the worst venue on the planet has brought us almost full circle to a show in 2009 at the Egg. 14 years after the first time I should have seen them.

Nautical Disaster


This is by far my favorite Hip song. There’s no chorus to speak of, but it’s a dramatic story and the intensity and dynamics really grabbed me the first time I heard it. I was pumped when they did this on SNL in 1995 in support of their Day for Night release.

The driving force under the first verse is built upon Gord Sinclair’s bass guitar with some light melodies from the guitar duo of Rob Baker & Paul Langlois. There are two strokes of the ride cymbal bell from Johnnie Fay at 0:50-0:51. They are so simple, yet so powerful as a drama builder. The use of a loose hi-hat and a lack of ride cymbal throughout the track helps to contribute to the darkness and sense of uneasiness. The ending ride-out is full of tension and melodic guitar, but no guitar solo, some very tasteful bass riffs and runs, but nothing singly penetrating – it’s murky in this watery ocean. In typical Gord Downie fashion nothing is straightforward lyrically. It’s about a failed/failing relationship, but definitely not your average pop-song take on a relationship, with the nautical disaster as the metaphor. This is a brilliant phrase: Anyway Susan, if you like, our conversation is as faint as a sound in my memory, as those fingernails scratching on my hull. As faint a sound as the fingernails of drowning hands – what an image.

Nautical Disaster
I had this dream where I relished the fray
and the screaming filled my head all day.
It was as though I'd been spit here, settled
in, into the pocket of a lighthouse on some
rocky socket, off the coast of France, dear.

One afternoon, four thousand men died in
the water here and five hundred more were
thrashing madly, as parasites might in your
blood. Now I was in a lifeboat designed for
ten and ten only, anything that systematic
would get you hated. It's not a deal nor a
test nor a love of something fated. The
selection was quick, the crew picked and
those left in the water got kicked off our
pantleg and we headed for home.

Then the dream ends when the phone rings,
you doing alright he said it's out there most
days and nights, but only a fool would
complain. Anyway Susan, if you like, our
conversation is as faint as a sound in my
memory, as those fingernails scratching on
my hull.


More Tragically Hip:
Nautical Disaster (live)
Courage (live)
New Orleans is Sinking (live)