Our Lady Peace is a band now 20 years old and onto album number eight. They’re Canadian alt-rock veterans with a steady trajectory to their sound clearly visible over the years. Unfortunately the sound’s travelling in the wrong direction. Fans tend to distinguish their output into the years pre and post departure of founding member Mike Turner and producer Arnold Lanni, the latter era considered to never quite meet the same great heights they once did. Such an in-band shake-up is undoubtedly going to affect output, but to me, they were still Our Lady Peace. Raine Maida’s voice has deepened over the years and the band have certainly lost some quirk. But now, off of the back of their 2010 tour which showcased seminal albums Clumsy and Spiritual Machines in their entirety, comes Curve. Raine has stated Curve is even more experimental and ambitious than their fourth record, a concept album based on Raymond Kurzwell’s futuristic book “The Age of Spiritual Machines”.
In fact I found it hard to find any positive aspects to the new album at all, on the first listen at least. I would say it is different from their past work, but it is also verging on boring. There is less singing to Raine these days; his recent solo work comes across as a sort of congealed grunge blues, simple and almost droning. Here, there are more dimensions with the band behind him, but there is a very melancholic vibe to the record, which is not to say that is outright a bad thing, but he has to be careful about verging into the realms of whiny, instead of edgy. For example, As Fast as You Can briefly conjured up ideas of Kings of Leon, for me, and I have heard others compare tracks to the bad parts of Muse, so there are definitely aspects to work on.
As the final notes close, I don’t want to press play again; I want to seek out their back catalogue.
The first single to be released, Heavyweight, is also a dull flop in my view. However, allowing for another listen and accepting its gloomier tones, the second half of the track listing is not half bad. If this is it and Rabbits are fair and both bring their own worthwhile, individual aspects to the boiling pot. Yes, Will Somebody Change is a piano ballad, but it is not out of place embedded in the midst of these other mellow tracks. Find Our Way is minimalistic, but it works. With a bare backbone of drums and guitar-picking under Maida’s still distinctive voice, broken up with bouts of heavier segments, it is an interesting song and for this at least I can concede to the band’s claims of seeking out their creativity again and letting the older, intrinsic aspects of OLP shine through.
Mettle is another worthwhile last minute contribution, at least worthy of a passing nod to Spiritual Machines in that it again showcases the band’s arty side, using the vocals of boxer George Chuvalo over a spaced-out instrumental. As the final notes close, I don’t want to press play again; I want to seek out their back catalogue.
It’s not a heavy album by any means and not a ‘poppy’ one either. I think once the tone is recognised and the direction the band have taken is accepted, it is not a terrible stand-alone album. But when compared with their work pre mid-2000s, it does not even stand up at all.
Image courtesy of Our Lady Peace