Tragically Hip | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tragically Hip 

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As one listener in this era of rap and alternative rock who remains a sucker for straightforward two-guitars-bass-and-drums rock and roll, I'm left wanting by the many bands who traffic in this genre without intelligence or originality. Hence my enthusiasm for Tragically Hip. On their third record, Fully Completely, the Canadian quintet adapts the principles of punchy, intertwining guitars, urgent vocals, and nimble drumming to the post-Nevermind rules of the game. Granted, that effort results in some overt imitation, as on "The Wherewithal," which smells a little too much like "Territorial Pissings." What works, though, is the economy and restraint with which guitarists Bobby Baker and Paul Lenglois employ catchy, crunching riffs and chords you could hear from Foreigner, Aerosmith--hell, even Deep Purple. They put this guitar flash to the service of the songs, so instead of heavy-handed bombast you get trim, forceful guitar rock, with help from the fleet rhythm section of bass player Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay. The music's compressed intensity seems designed to match singer Gordon Downie's dark, cryptic musings; on the end of "Locked in the Trunk of a Car," Downie cries "Let me out" as the rest of the band blazes away, incinerating whatever room there is around him. Grabbing the viscera and the cerebellum at the same time, this is rock and roll smart people don't have to be embarrassed to enjoy. Friday, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 559-1212.


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