When it comes to negative coverage of the Tragically Hip this summer, there’s been remarkably little. Almost none, in fact. Given Gord Downie’s cancer prognosis and the possibility of the Man Machine Poem tour being their last, it just seems…wrong, you know? Immoral, even.
This brings me to David Solway, who contributed this to PJ Media, an American-based punditry website which, as far as I can tell, enjoys being contrarian. A look at their home page reveals a navigation guide to topics like “Homeland Security,” “Parenting” and “Faith.” This is where Fletcher chanced upon this article and forwarded it to me saying “This may be the worst thing I’ve ever read.” Here’s a taste.
Downie’s condition is terribly sad, and nobody would have wished it upon him. But his caterwauling howls, garishly flamboyant gesticulations, and designer robot outfit were not, in my estimation, fitting or dignified. His performance was, rather, off-putting if not aberrant. How bizarre that a group would announce its lead singer’s impending death—and then go on a (presumably) last tour! How can one relate to their music in a normal way? The phenomenon was not so much a musical event as an orgiastic sobfest in which everyone was invited to share “the pain and the tears and the triumph,” to quote Don Pyle of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet—a route that David Bowie, for example, did not take. And what would happen if Downie’s cancer, as we all hope for his sake, should by some miracle go into remission? (We are told it is incurable; yet I have a friend whose “incurable” disease was diagnosed five years ago, and she is leading an active and vigorous life.) There is something indiscreet and awkward, almost macabre, about the spectacle—“unprecedented” in a way the CBC did not intend.
But there is also another explanation: despite all the saccharine hype that surrounds them, they are just not very good, a minor band with no international resonance and an overblown reputation at home. Reference is often made to the band’s “poignant and witty lyrics,” and to their “enigmatic sound,” as in a by now stock puff piece from the music/film site exclaim.ca. I would beg to differ.
There are a couple of ways to look at this. (a) David Solway hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about; (b) He’s being deliberately provocative; or (c) he’s saying what many have been afraid to say.
As I write this, the story has generated at least 200 comments, most of which seem to revolve around the statements about Justin Trudeau. But there are others that berate him for his Hip talk. They include:
- “You ever lived in Canada? Talk about something you know nothing about. Oh, you already are.”
- “Canadian music from a different era. Less self effusive praise, much deeper talent. Sadly, that can be said for most of the western world.”
- “I usually enjoy your articles but find this critique to be crass and doubt you’ve ever gone to a single one of their shows. We live just across the border in WA and there were always very enthusiastic Canadian fans at any performances we attended. And you know what, it was always an upbeat, memorable experience.:
But then the comments devolve into comments about Canada’s irrelevance, our “fake” friendliness, our mediocrity as a people and our unwillingness to defend ourselves.
Read the entire article here. Please feel free to comment, but try not to rise to the bait, okay? The best way to fight back is with reasoned, intelligent commentary.