The Tragically Hip World Container

Over the past 15 years, the Tragically Hip have challenged the very notion of what a rock band can be and they continue to do so with the excellent World Container. Avid music fans, the Hip have been flirting with "indie rock” and experimental sounds since at least 1995’s Day for Night, and Gord Downie remains one of the most captivating songwriters anywhere. On World Container, the band’s idiosyncrasies are present but they’re augmented by unfamiliar instrumentation, atmospherics and hard rock changes. The most obvious example of the band treading into uncharted territory is the marvellously poppy "In View.” The Hip have a solid record when it comes to writing infectious, anthemic songs but the giddy hook of Jamie Edwards’s keyboards here is a sunny surprise, making it the most instantly gratifying single since "Poets.” There’s quite a bit of U2 floating around the new hockey tune, "The Lonely End of the Rink,” which contains a four-on-the-floor disco bridge and drips of reggae too. Though he normally saves it for the stage, Downie’s voice has taken on a particularly angst-y edge in the studio in recent years. His unhinged persona is certainly present on the brooding "Luv (Sic)” and the storming "The Kids Don’t Get It,” which producer Bob Rock tailors for the live show. Downie connects the latter’s narrative with the piano-led "Pretend,” which morphs from tender to power ballad. Other great rockers include "The Drop-Off,” in which Downie manically raps the chorus, and "Family Band,” which offers up a sly depiction of being a young indie band in Canada. With World Container, the Hip sound fresh-faced and hungry to challenge themselves and their fans. (Universal)