"Road Apples" is a great leap forward from "Up To Here" for the Hip. The biggest difference is not the songwriting, which has is better this time out, but the production. The album has a cleaner sound, but is looser and more groove oriented than the riff heavy "Up To Here". The production is impressive, but wouldn't mean much without the tremendous batch of songs Gordon Downie and the boys have cooked up. Nearly every song is a Hip classic. "Little Bones" is the perfect song to kick off a rock album, nearly begging to be played at full volume. The instrumental build-up eventually gives in to some of Gord's finest lyrics. "It gets so sticky down here, better butter your cue finger up; it's the start of another new year, better call the newspaper up". Small town boredom looking for a little fun, but the only fun is during happy hour. "Nothing's dead down here, it's just a little tired" is Gord's version of optimism. The energy doesn't let up until half way through, as each of the first five songs are loud, furious rock and roll. It is clear in these songs who Downie's biggest influence was when writing his lyrics, Shakespeare. Several songs have direct references to Shakespearian characters, or to the man himself. This may sound like a strange reference point for noisy rock music, but it gives the songs an certain eloquence. "Cordelia" uses the tragedy of "King Lear" as a metaphor to his own failures through a series of visceral scenes. "The Luxury" has what I believe to be Downie's funniest and most sarcastic lyric in "She says 'why are you partial to that Playboy con, when you can see me naked anytime you want?'" Well honey, let me tell ya why.... "Three Pistols" and "On the Verge" are two more tragically overlooked (in America) classics. The three ballads on this album give it the stylistic diversity it needs. "Long Time Running" is plaintive and desperate. "Fiddler's Green" is a beautiful song about a son who's left his loving mother behind, and "Last of the Unplucked Gems" is an unfinished gem to close the album, working it's hazy groove and giving us one of Downie's most hauntingly beautiful melodies. When he sings "I'm kinda dumb, and so are you" he may only be half right. Do yourself a favor rock fans and buy this album. It is a masterpiece of hard rock, and the first great album from the most criminally overlooked band (in America) of the past 10-15 years.