“The Hip” have always been one of the more fascinating bands in my eyes. Up in the Great White North, they’ve always been a favorite of Canadians, getting lots of radio airplay and topping the charts constantly. Outside of the country, however, they’ve never seemed to have had as much popularity as they deserve. Albums of theirs like Up to Here (1989), Road Apples (1991), and Fully Completely (1992) have always been considered classics by myself and many others alike. But how does one of their lesser known works, such as 2009’s We Are the Same, hold up against that trio?
The chiller, folkier side of The Hip is definitely prominent on this album, highlighted by songs like “Morning Moon” and “Now the Struggle Has a Name.” Both have relaxing acoustic guitar and catchy choruses, but “Morning Moon” is the real highlight on the album — sure to make you bob your head but reach for the tissue box at the same time.
While you’ve got those tissues in your hand, let me introduce you to the nine-minute-long, sob-causing epic appropriately dubbed “The Depression Suite.” Lyrically, the song is split into three different sections, which all highlight the different aspects and viewpoints of depression and mental illness. Heavy stuff… but thought provoking enough to keep you listening through the whole of it. “Don’t You Wanna See How it Ends?” the last section, keeps repeating its title in a very haunting way over top of a beautiful strings section.
Although the first half of the album is purely folk rock, the second half has a plethora of hard-hitting blues rockers (you can put away those tissues if you so desire). Among them, the highlights are “Speed River,” “Love is a First,” and “Frozen in My Tracks.” The latter really showcases Gord Downie’s amazing vocal abilities in the chorus, accompanied by a great, heavy feel from the guitars and drums.
Another highlight is “Coffee Girl.” The chill groove in the song gives you a bit of a melancholy vibe, almost as if you’re actually in an early morning coffee shop. The repetition of “hey there coffee girl” in every chorus is catchy and relaxing at the same time, making it a high point on the album.
Overall, We Are the Same really demonstrates the band’s ability to make simple-yet-effective mainstream-oriented songs. You won’t find blazing guitar solos or pounding drum fills, but you will find a great album for easy listening or sitting around a campfire to. It will not only appeal to die-hard fans of The Hip, but also anyone who likes their blues rock or folk rock. You could definitely compare it to their early-nineties trio of classics, and even make a case for it being better.
Overall rating: 7/10