Over the last decade Canadian alternative rock band Our Lady Peace have been one of my favourite bands. I first heard them back in 2002 when their track "Whatever" was used s the introduction music to former wrestler Chris Benoit and since then I've been in love with the band buying up most of their albums.
The band, originally formed in 1992 is lead by vocalist and song writer Raine Maida, the only remaining member of the bands original line up. Maida is accompanied by drummer Jeremy Taggart, bassist Duncan Coutts and guitarist Steve Mazur who have all been a part of the band for at least a decade (though the band has previously featured Mike Turner-Guitar, Chris Eacrett-Bass and Jim Newell-Drums).
As a group they found notable success in the late 1990's early 00's with albums including "Clumsy" (1997), "Happiness... Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch" (1999) and "Gravity" (2002) and their connection to WWE via both the track for Benoit and a track ("Not Enough") used for a different WWE video.
So now to "Curve", the band's 8th studio album, following up 2009's "Burn Burn", which personally I felt was a disappointment. "Curve" sees the band continuing to grow out of their angsty and paranoid rock sound that I loved as a teenager however it also sees the band freeing their proverbial wings and linking up with former Heavyweight boxer George Chuvalo (who is featured on the album's cover). As a huge boxing fan, just seeing a young Chuvalo on the cover was yet another reason to give this album a listen.
The album starts with "Allowance" a track that although decent on it's own right feels somewhat tame compared to what I've personally come to expect from the band. It's catchy enough in the chorus to be an acceptable track but it certainly fails to grab you like many of the band previous opening album tracks which have almost always been the fast hard hitting tracks that make you want to listen to the rest of the album. Whilst it's fair to admit that the band have a loyal fan base I think personally most will have been disappointed with this as the opening track.
The album continues some what with the darker sounding "Fire in the Henhouse". Sadly for me this is a track that, personally, sounds more like Raine Maida's solo work than what I'd expect from Our Lady Peace. It's yet again a track that's tame and doesn't really sound like the band at their best, in fact it almost sounds like the band some sort of sleeping pills and although lyrically it's better than the opener it's again lacking the energy that one has come to expect from Our Lady Peace.
Thankfully after a slow start the album has it's highlight track "Heavyweight", comfortably the albums stand out track and also the albums first single (reaching #1 on the Canadian Active Rock Chart). It's a track that actually sounds a like Our Lady Peace with a lot of musical depth, Raine unleashing his vocals with a hint of paranoia and a fair bit of energy behind the whole track. This is the sort of thing that made so many people fall in love with the band and whilst it's not one of the ands greatest songs, it's certainly a much better track than anything else on the album.
Sadly after the highlight of "Heavyweight" the album drops off. With "Window Seat" again sounding like a track from Raine's solo album rather than a track from Our Lady Peace. Whilst it's interesting lyrically it's simply too restrained and too slow to sound like a song one would expect from Our Lady Peace and sadly it sort of drags on for the last minute or so with little to really make you want to listen to it more than once or twice.
Whilst the album might not sound much like an "Our Lady Peace" album, track 6 "As Fast As You Can" does, like "Heavyweight", show glimpses of the band at their best. The track injects some pace in to the album, an anthemic drum beat and also some good memories of the band. This was the albums second single in their native Canada and with good reason.
Following on from "As Fast As You Can" is "If This is It" another track that shows glimpses of the bands past with Raine's vocals showing the paranoid sound that made the bands early work stand out. Sadly however despite Raine returning to form, the energy and chemistry of the track seems off and it again seems as if the track could have done with a shot of caffeine. By no means is this a stinker like the albums opening tracks but it's also not up to the standard I'd expect of the band.
We get a return to tracks that sound like Raine's solo work with the slow and almost ballad like "Will Someday Change" a track that I think would work really well had it been the albums single slow song, or been on Raine's own album. Sadly with an album of mainly restrained tracks this sort of fades into the back ground as "another slow one". Lyrically and vocally it's Raine's show with very simple accompaniment and if you you ignore the rest of this album, this is actually worth listening to. Oddly I hear a lot of Raine's wife (Canadian musician Chantal Kreviazuk) in this track rather than much Our Lady Peace.
I really want to like "Find Our Way" which does have an injection of pace in part which genuinely are good enough to fit on any Our Lady Peace track sadly however the rest of the track is very "samey-samey" and does little to make you want to listen to it. It's yet another track where you get to glimpse the band at their best with out ever getting to really see them for more than a few seconds. It's a disappointment only really take off their leashes very late in the track and unleashing a short portion of hard hitting rock sounds.
The albums penultimate track is "Rabbits" which is yet another track that sounds like it was lifted from Raine's album. Whilst I'm not saying that (and haven't at any point) in an offensive way, it just doesn't sound like Our Lady Peace. I love Raine's voice and his solo work is exceptional, but when I buy an Our Lady Peace album I intend to listen to rock music, I intend to listen to Our Lady Peace, I expect to hear energetic music and paranoid vocals. When I listen to Raine's solo work I expect a tamer sound, a more controlled tempo and music with a deeper meaning. Sadly when I listen to one I expect it to be different from the other.
The album ends with the most interesting track on the album, "Mettle" a track that, like much of the album is tamer, however this is a much more interesting track than the usual tame stuff as it features spoken words by the album's cover star George Chuvalo.
Chuvalo, for those who aren't aware, was one of the toughest men ever to lace on a pair of boxing gloves and was never knocked down in 93 fights. Including his opponents were the likes of Pete Rademacher (Olympic gold medal winner), Floyd Patterson (Former 2-time Heavyweight champion and Olympic Champion), Muhammad Ali (former 3-time Heavyweight champion and Olympic Champion), Joe Frazier (Former Olympic and Heavyweight champion) and George Foreman (Former 2-time Heavyweight champion and Olympic Champion). Sadly however Chuvalo's bravery and toughness cannot save this album from being a disappointment.
Overall this album, really isn't what I've personally come to expect from Our Lady Peace. The band that gave us tracks like "Whatever", "Superman's Dead", "Not Enough", "Naveed" and "One Man Army" are as good as dead. The band seem to have all but lost their angry rock sound and energy and become...well...a bunch of tired pensioners. Aside from "Heavyweight" and "As Fast As You Can" there is little really worth listening to, unless, like myself, you're a massive boxing fan, in which case you can include "Mettle".
Even if you're an Our Lady Peace fan I need to advise you to give this a miss I'm afraid, however if you wish to listen to Raine Maida imitating Raine Maida this is the perfect album for you. In fact it's probably fair to describe this album as "Raine Maida's unofficial second studio alum" following on from his 2007 solo album "The Hunters Lullaby"