Perpetual touring and an armload of recordings have built Canadaís Tragically Hip a large enough following that theyíve sold out their show this Friday at the Somerville Theatre. Those endeavors have also taken them, at last, to a producer, veteran British art-rock maven Hugh Padgham, who can locate and enhance the subtle beauties in their meat-and-potatoes approach ó threads of more expansive psychedelia. To judge by the image on the CD itself, which does homage to Pink Floydís first album cover, Padgham and the Hip were on the same wavelength. Robby Baker and Paul Langlois generate most of the bandís sonic evolution with their guitars, creating interlocking textures of shimmer and roar in the road song "Itís a Good Life If You Donít Weaken" and meeting like conflicting tides in "Are You Ready." The six-strings churn up a spray of sound in "Silver Jet" and make things dark and dreamy in "Throwing Off Glass."
But singer/lyricist Gordon Downie still doesnít hit the mark with his writing. His literary allusions seem more pretentious near-misses than connections to the themes of growth and discovery heís tried to weave throughout. Maybe itís a matter of vocabulary, or a lack of depth. Certainly the teenage wasteland he tries to create in "Throwing Off Glass" would be more vivid if he didnít depend on "a car full of haircuts" driving past to create tension, and thereís something about his allusions to loveís being "too cunning" and the world, "like love," having "barbarous threats" thatís both unwieldy and overstated. Well, at least heís aiming for something as ambitious as the music.
(The Tragically Hip play the Somerville Theatre this Friday, July 26. The show is officially sold out.)