The Tragically Hip ‘Now For Plan A' (Zoe Records)
“At Transformation” is the opening shot that sets things spinning winningly on The Tragically Hip's 13th long-player “Now For Plan A,” with fuzzed-out, twanging and stinging guitars swirling around Gordon Downie's distinctively dramatic warble as he sings of his resolve to be a positive force in a negative world and “not a bullet in the right place.”
Good plan, Gord. But then on the dreamier mid-tempo rocker “About This Map,” he concedes quite emotionally that life doesn't always go according to plan, so tear up that map and let the winds of fortune blow you where they may.
Sometimes life leads to heartache, as he observes on the slow-dancing, beautifully melancholy breakup song “Done and Done,” while the hard-driving, chord-churning “Streets Ahead” seems to exhort the listener not to mope around and left life run off and leave you.
Here's yet another great record from one of Canada's biggest concert draws, a band tragically overlooked south of the border despite nearly 30 years' worth of melodically memorable and lyrically potent rock 'n' roll. Downie's soul-wrenching vocals are at turns reminiscent of the Call's Michael Been and Velvet Underground-era Lou Reed, while the muscular three-guitar drive of Downie, Paul Langlois and Rob Baker make them Kingston, Ontario's answer to the Rolling Stones.
Maybe No. 13 is the charm.
— Gene Triplett