In their first venture since 2002's In Violet Light, the Tragically Hip still sound like art students living with their parents--rough, lacking production and sweating in their faded black T-shirts. Though more distinctive than interesting, the album grew on me from song to song (that is, minus the first song, "Heaven Is a Better Place Today"; after one listen, it was clear I was never going to play that again). In the old days, singer Gordon Downie was almost a huskier, Canadian version of Billy Bragg. Here, on songs like "If New Orleans Is Beat" and "You Are Everywhere," he sounds like the product of an illicit college radio orgy with Tim Finn (uniquely warbling and pitchy), Andy Partridge (when he's on, he's so on) and Michael Stipe (whiny and desperate). The album isn't exactly innovative--no U2-type evolution here. Instead, it's a trip back to the era of Hothouse Flowers and Rave-Ups. A comfortable trip, mind you.
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