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Music Review: Our Lady Peace – Curve

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We all have our favorite bands and artists, who we follow relentlessly, and whose every move we have documented. We know every plan they have regarding tours and new releases. And then there are the staples in our collections who we tend to forget until they put out something new. For me, Our Lady Peace is one of those bands. I enjoy their sounds, rarely skip them when they are given their turn in shuffle, and say “Oh, yeah, they’re awesome,” when they come up in conversation, but they have never quite made it into the list of bands I follow. So when they release something new, it is like a rebirth for me, finding again something that has brought me hours of enjoyment in the past.

The eighth studio release, and first in three years, from Canada’s Our Lady Peace (OLP), entitled Curve, has seen the band facing new technologies that were not available to them during the creation of their 2009 release, Burn Burn. For the first time, fans were given an inside look at the production process as the band streamed some of the recording process live on the Internet. The addition of this new technology was not the only experimentation Raine Maida and crew applied to the creation of Curve. Curve also offers fans a new, more synthesized, electric sound, as the band found new musical toys to play with as well.

While not a “concept” album, there seems to be a distinct theme of fighting – as a sport – throughout the album, starting with the cover photo of boxer George Chuvalo, who offers a bit of dialog on the album’s closing track, “Mettle,” and continuing through the video for the album’s first single, “Heavyweight,” which clearly has its own fighting connotations in its title. The question arises whether this was a conscious decision or something that just “kind of happened,” as recording spanned over the death of friend and fellow Canadian, MMA fighter Chris Benoit, who had used the band’s “Whatever” as his introductory track.

Growth has happened, change has happened, but that is to be expected when a band spends two and a half years writing an album, rather than the six to eight months that has become somewhat of an industry standard. While time seems to be a luxury that most artists (or their label execs) don’t feel they can afford, there are still a few in the industry who insist on putting in the work and the time to polish an album and create something they are proud of.

Critics of these artists – be it OLP or anyone else who takes their time to finesse the songwriting process – always seem to focus on how different “this album” is from “their last album.” They offer no heed to the time that was spent creating the new release, electing to compare these artists, instead, to the annual and semi-annual assembly line creations of other artists. Three years of creation is a long time for an artist or band to learn new techniques, to have life experiences, and to fall in love with new influences. Growth happens and it tends to be more obvious when years pass between album releases, rather than months. I believe it has been to the benefit of OLP, not to their detriment.

“Fire in the Henhouse” is the second track on the album and begins hauntingly enough, then breaks into the ambitious new electronic experimentation that laces through Curve. A harsh rhyme scheme has grown on me through several spins of the track; at first it was extremely off-putting but the more I listened the more I enjoyed the choppiness of the AABB rhyme and soon found myself singing along.

“Heavyweight” – This first single from Curve comes with a video that has been both applauded for its artistic value and criticized for not including footage of the band except in flashes. The images that have been pieced together to create this visual representation are images of sorrow, poverty, and hardship. At the same time, there is a sense of pride and effort that comes through in those flashed pictures. As an introductory single, “Heavyweight” holds its own and delivers a strong idea of what listeners can expect of the rest of the album.

“As Fast As You Can” is a poppy, hand-clap-driven track that brings to mind a clear memory of “Vertigo”-era U2. In fact, if not for Maida’s unmistakable rasp, it could easily be taken for a U2 song. This really is the only song on the album that, for me, feels like a renegade piece that may have gotten mixed in from another puzzle, one that doesn’t quite fit.

“If This Is It” is an early favorite for this writer. As it eases into the melody, I have found a new favorite lyric from a band that has produced a lot of my favorite lyrics over the years: “I could be your greatest accident.” Unfortunately, there comes a time when a writer finds herself so enraptured by a track that finding the objective words to describe it becomes among the most daunting of tasks. “If This Is It” presents that problem. Words like “haunting,” “addictive,” and “captivating” have worked their way through my vocabulary, all of them feeling so subjective, so emotionally-driven, that I question their validity.

Overall, if one considers the time that was spent to create Curve and give allowance for the new experiences and growth patterns that have shaped the sound of this album, avoiding the temptation to compare it note-for-note to previous efforts, it is a beautiful piece of music worthy of dropping some hard earned coin on to own. Save for the aforementioned “As Fast As You Can,” Curve follows a flow that few albums achieve today. Curve follows a flow that, frankly, few artists even seem to strive for anymore. Every song feels like an extension of the one before it, a preface to the one that follows, while still standing sturdy on its own.

Curve, the eighth release from Our Lady Peace, is available from Warner Music as of April 17, 2012 – following an April 3 Canadian release – online and in stores everywhere popular music is sold.

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About D. Gabrielle Jensen

  • Trevor Jones

    I just checked out this album today.
    It is excellent.