Holy crap! And phew! Those two thoughts popped into my head pretty much simultaneously as I listened to Saskadelphia, The Tragically Hip’s new surprise EP of recently rediscovered leftovers from 1991’s Road Apples. The excitement of the former exclamation stems from the pleaseant realization that damn, these six songs are all great. Four are grittty, gnarly, raw-boned barnburners cranked out with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of a young band hitting their stride and firing on all cylinders. The other two (including one live cut) are a little slower and moodier, but still top-shelf work from Gord Downie and co. That’s where the relief comes in. So often — too often, in fact — posthumous releases like this turn out to be disappointing cash-ins cobbled together by committee from a bunch of half-baked ideas, second-rate filler and barrel scrapings. And that’s the last thing any Hip fan wants or needs. But this time you can actually believe the hype: These unburied treasures are every bit as good as anything they put out. So the legacy remains untarnished. The reputation stays intact. Gord stays golden. All is as it should be. Of course, it does sparks another thought, namely: Could there be more where this came from? Holy crap, indeed.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The Tragically Hip’s Saskadelphia is made up of six previously unreleased tracks written in 1990. Five were recorded that same year during the Road Apples sessions in New Orleans, and one live track, Montreal (Live from The Molson Centre, Montreal, Dec 7th, 2000), was written at the same time, but an original studio recording has yet to be found.
With no shortage of material and higher-ups at the American record label resisting the band’s call to release a double album, countless tracks were left behind on the studio floor. And so one album, Road Apples, heads out into the world, a rung on The Tragically Hip’s climb to legend status, while the rest of the tracks are tucked into boxes and moved out of sight. Until now.
Welcome to Saskadelphia: The record that stayed in the wings as Road Apples hit the stage. The title, a term coined by the band in a nod to the extensive touring they were doing in the early 1990s, was the original working title for Road Apples before it was rejected by those same label execs as being “too Canadian.”
From lead single Ouch, which greets listeners with the familiar roaring vocals of late singer and lyricist Gord Downie, to Not Necessary, a song whose fiery sound is layered with gentle and emotional lyrics — are pure, undistilled The Tragically Hip, as Rob Baker (guitar), Gord Downie (vocals, guitar), Johnny Fay (drums), Paul Langlois (guitar) and Gord Sinclair (bass) lay the groundwork for their unmistakable sound.
“I went ‘Wow’ when I heard Ouch after all this time,” says Baker. “We were a pretty good little band.”
After rediscovering the tracks they wrote more than three decades ago, The Tragically Hip knew they had to share the music with fans. Of these abandoned souvenirs from the past, Johnny Fay said, “We didn’t know what was there, so this meant baking them and listening to them as they were being transferred. Hearing them for the first time in 30 years was crazy.”