Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun: Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun

This will appeal to both the fans of Gord Downie and the Sadies, and possibly, quite possibly, everyone else who has yet to discover these two wonderful national Canadian treasures.

Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun

Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun

Label: Arts & Crafts
US Release Date: 2014-04-15
UK Release Date: 2014-04-15

Years ago, I saw a YouTube video of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie covering Guided by Voices’ "Over the Neptune/Mesh Gear Fox" and wondered, what would Gord Downie sound like if he was in a GBV cover band? Well, the answer is pretty apparent on this new album, a collaboration with Toronto rock ‘n’ roll/country band the Sadies. Not that Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun sounds a lot like GBV, but there’s that spirit of Who-like energy, not to mention the very Robert Pollard song-title worthy "I’m Free, Disarray Me". For the leader of Canada’s most Canadiana band, this marks a remarkable change of pace for Downie, who hasn’t sounded this invigorated in quite some time. There’s a real punk-like energy that courses through this album, and it’s all fairly highly enjoyable in a down back your beer in some scuzzy tavern kind of way. Some seven years in the making, Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun sounds remarkably cohesive despite its long gestation period, and marks a departure, but not too much of a departure, for all of the members involved.

The album kicks off with what might be the most GBV-inspired moment on the album, "Crater". With its caterwauling guitars, and the album’s most memorable lyric ("Crater / Getting crushed in her dreams / Or is her dreams / Doing all the crushing?"), it’s a staggering start to the record. It’s a definite highlight and amongst the more rocking numbers to be had on a disc with a half-hour’s worth of rocking songs. Meanwhile, "The Conquering Sun", which I guess would be the title track, has a more country flavour to it, and sounds more along the lines of what the Hip would sound like if they took a more western approach to their music making. "Los Angeles Times", on the other hand, is more of a marriage of music between the Hip and the Sadies, and is a superb outing. It’s at roughly this point that you have to wonder how much the Sadies are trying to sound like the Hip, or how much Downie is trying to sound like the Sadies, and the end result is a potent and brisk blend of musicality. There’s real muscle in these opening songs, giving way to the endless possibilities that this collaboration may bear fruit. "One Good Fast Job" has a bluesy swagger to it, and might just be the most Stones-y instant on the entire record. There’s even a rather baroque moment that comes in the bridge, which is enough to keep things interesting.

Punk meets fuzzed out psychedelia on "It Didn’t Start to Break My Heart Until This Afternoon". About two and a half minutes into this four-minute track, the band fires up its stun gun and begins to ride an affecting feeling of scuzz rock. "Budget Shoes" has a much more Spaghetti Western feel to it, and you can practically see the mesas and vistas conjured up by the majesty of this track. "Demand Destruction", however, is a more left turn into jangle rock territory, and sounds a lot like the early Byrds crossed with their Sweetheart of the Rodeo country era. "Devil Enough" takes that ball and runs with it, being the most country song on the record with its laid-back pace and glorious mandolins. Still, the song takes a curve by having a much more rocking chorus, and the effect is a little lumpy. "I’m Free, Disarray Me" could easily pass itself off as a hidden Tragically Hip track, but, overall, it’s nothing all that special, and it’s about here that the album takes a dip. Final song, "Saved", is a watery ballad and feels a bit incongruous as an album ender. leaving listeners holding the bag and wondering what’s next? The answer is, of course, absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.

One thing about Downie is that he’s taken very seriously in Canadian poetry circles ever since he published a book of poems, titled Coke Machine Glow. He’s seen as a poet who just happens to front a rock and roll band. However, with Gord Downie, the Sadies and the Conquering Sun, you get the sense a lot of these lyrics were hastily written on the back of a paper napkin, as there’s nothing as cryptic as his wordsmithing for the Hip. However, this rubs both ways. While, on one hand, you might think that this might be a little weak, on the other, it just goes to show that Downie, and by extension his bandmates, are having a terribly fun time putting the pieces of this album together. And that’s exactly what this album is: an exuberant celebration of the joys of country and rock music. It fits together remarkably well, and while, in the end, this might not be considered canon for fans of both outfits -- Downie’s Hip and the Sadies -- one can’t help but wonder what else could be born out of this collaboration. Could it be that in another seven years, we’ll get The Conquering Sun Part II? For now, this is a self-assured collection of songs, and will appeal to both the fans of Gord Downie and the Sadies, and possibly, quite possibly, everyone else who has yet to discover these two wonderful national Canadian treasures.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.