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By the time a band gets to their fifth album, it's perhaps a time for extreme change; the majority of the bands I like fit the tag of 'alternative' so with each record, you'd expect a group to grow out of their teenage angst days before gradually moving into a more considered, reflective species of songs prior to experimenting a little bit more. Our Lady Peace have certainly done that; from their grungy punk debut album 'Naveed' all the way back in 1994 to the hard rocking but touching efforts of 'Clumsy' (1997) and 'Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch' (1999), the band decided to go with a concept album in 2001, blending musings from a novelist to create their most daring album at that time, 'Spiritual Machines'.
So, Our Lady Peace naturally had three directions to go in: the four piece Canadian outfit could either revert back to their older, high energy days and continue to fuse electronic guitars and falsetto vocals with dark lyrics or make another concept album or else forget the underground sound they'd always sought to epitomise in their works and go full blown mainstream. Sadly, the band went for the latter and fans were left with the album 'Gravity', containing ten tracks of optimistic, corny ramblings against a soft rock background that even Bryan Adams would be cringing at. Ten tracks isn't a lot for any album and I was slightly alarmed to discover that OLP had only managed to write 12 tracks in preparation for this release which makes me think they were seriously lacking inspiration...
'I NEED RELEVANCE, INTELLIGENCE, A NEW TATTOO, A LOT MORE SEX' (Lyrics from 'All For You')
I probably forgot to mention in the opening few paragraphs that 'Gravity' isn't all bad; there are a couple of tracks that could stand alone as some of the most powerful and thought provoking that the band have ever dared. The opening track, 'All For You', is one of the finest examples of a traditional Our Lady Peace song, in spite of the fact it was a deceiving opener for an album destined to be anything but a typical OLP record. 'All For You' is a song that takes a paranoid look at the average man or woman, fearing debt collectors during financial crisis. It sounds like an obscure and perhaps a little strange topic for a song but it's one of the few songs on the album where the listener can develop compassion for the character; lead singer and songwriter Raine Maida's vocals are spot on, dipping between confused yelps of terror to lower tones that bring out the desperation of the person who just wants an honest companion in times of such hardship. Everything seems really cohesive from the grinding guitars and thrashes from the cymbal, played with gusto by Jeremy Taggart, to emphasise how the person is never at peace and always scared of whoever's lurking behind the front door.
'I HATE MYSELF FOR LISTENING TO YOU' (Lyrics from 'Do You Like It')
Unfortunately, the only way is downwards but not until after the raw sob story that is 'Do You Like It', a song about a man and a woman who are constantly trying the others patience to the point where it's impossible to break away. 'Do You Like It' finds solace in Raine's vocals once again where his whimperings are contrasted against the mean yet repetitive guitar riff to denote that although the relationship is psychologically draining, it's a cycle that is impossible to break. Although 'Do You Like It' isn't a song that has an unusual central theme, what I do like about it is the fact that the band have kept things simple: 'Do You Like It' might not be the most distinctive of all of their works but it manages to portray a story that many listeners could well identify with whilst keeping things sincere and engaging, which is more than can be said for many of the songs on 'Gravity'.
Slowing things down quite considerably with an acoustic guitar is one of the bands most famous singles, 'Somewhere Out There', a song that contemplates whether re-meeting that special person will ever become a reality again. I initially liked 'Somewhere Out There'; it begins quite softly and really showcases the contemplation of loneliness. However, the song is spoiled by the chorus as OLP decide - rather predictably - to go all out with the electric guitars which essentially loses the gorgeous meaning of the rest of the song. Personally, I would have loved for the band to have kept going with a less over the top acoustic presentation so that the romantic lyrics would have been kept alive and really would have been the driving force behind the whole presentation. However, by increasing the volume at the chorus, Our Lady Peace have made the track more 'rock friendly' and made the desperation of the searching lover seem more persistent and frantic.
I'm not normally against the addition of orchestral instruments; such items add texture and an epic feel to a song. However, the string instruments towards the end of 'Somewhere Out There' weren't as effectively used as they could have been; if the band had stuck with the acoustic guitar, the violins and such would have only added to that gentle sound but coupled with the thumping drum beats, it just didn't work, making it seem as if OLP were trying too hard to be impressive. The same could be said for Raine's voice; during 'Somewhere Out There', it has a scratchy feel to it which I found distracting and took away from the beauty of the lyrics. None-the-less, if 'Somewhere Out There' had been performed by a singer with a slightly purer voice, I think it would have been one of the best moments on the album.
'BUT IT ALL SEEMS SO CONTAGIOUS/NOT TO BE YOURSELF AND FACELESS/IN A SONG THAT HAS NO SOUL' (Lyrics from 'Innocent')
'Innocent', although another pretty well known song by OLP in the US of A and Canada, is quite frankly diabolical; it's cheesy, boring and smug, three qualities you really can do without in a song. Although providing a good message all about being yourself and being grateful for your own life rather than intimidating someone elses, 'Innocent' doesn't communicate these thoughts in an intelligent way. Raine has decided to make the lyrics so blatant and dull that it's just an unbearable listen, not just for the fact that he repeats the word 'innocent' over and over again but for the fact that you can just feel the self-satisfaction seeping from your earphones from the low key guitar at the beginning and thrusting drum beat to the chanting by Raine and the others. It's terrible right until the fuzzing, disjointed guitar at the end and is a song that any idiot sat at home alone whilst contemplating life could have written.
Unfortunately, things don't pick up drastically by track number five; 'Made of Steel' feels a lot like 'Innocent' but actually verges on listenable...it might have just been because of Raine's imploring to use him as a punching bag that I find appealing or it might be because 'Made of Steel' has been controlled and comes across as less pretentious. The song itself has been largely built around the rather fine but ordinary use of guitars that stops and starts between harder and softer tempos to add to the notion of sticking up for someone who is drowning in their own sorrow. The idea of being someone who can mould themselves around another is interesting and it's about as interesting as the rest of the lyrics on 'Gravity' get. Ultimately 'Made of Steel' isn't a great track - it's decent in the sense of I don't want to destroy my CD player straight after listening to it but that's about as far as I can compliment it as it's slightly unmemorable really.
'WHEN THEY SAY YOU'RE NOT THAT STRONG/YOU'RE NOT THAT WEAK/IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT' (Lyrics from 'Not Enough')
As we venture into the second half of 'Gravity' (gosh I can't believe I'm writing that after just five tracks!) Our Lady Peace decide to slow things right down once again with 'Not Enough', a song that has been used a couple of times on World Wrestling Entertainment TV just so you can picture the mentality of the song; all about the struggle of someone who really has nothing left to prove, I find 'Not Enough' to be a confused song. Although the tune is quite reflective to begin with, the build up in the middle and the abrasive vocal effort reminds me of a couple of prepubescent boys dabbling in music. 'Not Enough' is quite bland as although the song gets louder, the reason for this being the case doesn't seem clear and altogether it just sounds like a rather poor and lackluster effort that drags on for far too long for the sake of it.
After a song that repeats the words 'nothing' and 'what' at the start of every sentence, 'Sell My Soul' decides to switch to the phrase 'how' just for a nice change. Alas, that is the only change that the song accomplishes as in actual fact the music is drearily similar and is presented in the same way to 'Not Enough' and it's almost like listening to a reflection of track number six. 'Sell My Soul' relishes in its misery; Raine's vocals have hardly been at their most spectacular throughout the album and they've actually been really monotonous. On previous records, I've enjoyed listening to his off-kilter falsetto notes that have added some spontaneity and zest to the songs but thus far, Raine has decided to keep to a fairly safe baritone which is as flat as the lyrics in question. 'Sell My Soul' is about the closest thing to a ballad on 'Gravity' but the problem is I don't believe Raine is completely entrapped inside his lover; I don't believe that he's loving her but not receiving any back (probably reverts back to his thoughts in 'All For You' when he wants more sex) because of just how insipid his vocals are.
Instead of trying to make up for such a severe lack of heart in the past couple of songs, Our Lady Peace decide to rip off 'Innocent' yet again with 'Sorry', the albums eighth album track which is just as self-righteous as the fourth and just as banal. 'Sorry' decides to continue where 'Innocent' left off with the simple message of enjoy life and seeking the most from it but the bands enthusiasm just comes across as cheap; the juxtaposition between the 'old' self-centred version of a person and the 'new' persona who wants to live life to the fullest is just too ridiculous and again evidently written and they've once again used the obvious trick of keeping the tune fairly quiet during the verses and louder during the chorus' as a way to allow the listener to contemplate what little meaning there actually is there. I don't consider the notion of the past being a 'freak' to be a good metaphor as it essentially means nothing and that is a bit of a tragedy about 'Gravity' in general; the lyrics lack any real sort of meaning, other than clichés such as 'tasting the honey', and when the tune is kept at a fairly low level, the words are really shown to be very insincere and depthless.
'A LITTLE WHITE HOUSE/IT'S EVERYTHING WE'VE DREAMED ABOUT' (Lyrics from 'Bring Back The Sun')
'Bring Back The Sun' is definitely the deepest song from 'Gravity'; Raine's voice has sunk to its lowest pitch to really emphasise the anxiety of finding a solution to the couples problems and united with the less bawdy electric guitars, everything seems to work better on 'Bring Back The Sun' than on most of the tracks so far on the album. The orchestra is finally utilised in a credible and measured method just before the second verse to add a little more sorrow to the song, in addition to the less manic pace of the rest of the instruments before the middle eight; one of the partners admits their failings in a bold and reasonably compassionate outburst from Raine which is actually a pleasant surprise.
However, in spite of that rather subdued praise, I still don't like 'Bring Back The Sun' all that much; after trying to polish too many turds prior to the penultimate track on 'Gravity', 'Bring Back The Sun' reeks of something rotten, as if the band themselves knew they needed a really substantial slower song to make the rest of the album seem more happy-go-lucky and vibrant. Alas, 'Bring Back The Sun' is still lurking in the shadows after so many really appalling and over indulgent tracks so you do wonder if there is any genuineness here at all or whether I found it because I was searching too hard for it. Despite that the fact I've slated the band so far in this review, I do want to find more reasons to compliment their fifth effort because Our Lady Peace have in the past been a great little band. Yet I have to be truthful: I was already far too fed up of this album by track number nine and I doubt the most inspired and accomplished track would have saved 'Gravity' after six songs of utter rot.
Sadly, 'Gravity' doesn't seek to end on too much of a high either with another blatant and lacking song in the form of 'Story About A Girl'. With a guitar melody that tries to imitate Green Day but songs more like 'Pink and Purple' Day, the albums final outing is another corny offering that is quite frankly laughable. All about trying to convince someone to stand up for themselves in such a corrupt world is one thing but there is something really unlikeable about this song; it tries to be catchy with the bubbles of the guitar at the beginning before once again bursting into a stunted bout of thrash metal at the chorus but overall, it ends the album poorly and you realise that perhaps even as early on as 'Spiritual Machines', OLP have been having a bit of an identity crisis and the final song does nothing but confirm this.
OVERALL: WHAT IS THE REALITY OF 'GRAVITY'?
As a fan of Our Lady Peace, I should have seen the transition coming: although 'Spiritual Machines' had a quirky theme behind it, many of the songs decided to concentrate on the dark side of life but in an almost comical way. 'Life', the third track from the said album, was perhaps the prototype for 'Innocent' as it too was all about self-esteem boosting and imploring someone to try and break free of their excess baggage. However, 'Innocent' and 'Sorry' in particular seem to contradict their overall meanings by almost mocking those in need of confidence boosting with bubbly tunes that come across as too tacky to be considered dangerously optimistic. Instead, the band could have adapted each of the songs into ballads which ended with a stroke of happiness with a minor riff on the guitar but instead, everything had to be full throttle to try and disguise just how poor Raine's song writing - even over the course of just ten tracks - and singing was for the majority of the album.
However, I have to say that the most shocking revelation to come out of 'Gravity' was the drummer's statement that this was their 'best album' at the time of its release. From someone who considers themselves to be a fan, I'd have to say his perception is clearly blinkered; there is very little to shout about with 'Gravity' and whilst 'All For You' and 'Do You Like It' are pretty amazing tracks, the rest of the album is severely lagging and ostentatious to the point where it does just sound like four men who've been given the keys to a recording studio playing at being rock stars.
Overall, 'Gravity' fell back to the earth with a bump and was altogether a bit of a disaster.
Length: 41.27 mins
Buy at: Play.com for £10.99 (with free delivery)
(Please note: Previously displayed on Ciao under the same username.)
The first song on this fifth studio album by our lady peace is entitles "All for you" and has the kinda sound associated with moodern Canadian rock (such as Finger 11), the heavy guitar sounds and strong vocals... hang on a minuite there...Our lady peace and "strong vocals", Raine (OLP's lead singer) has an amazing voice, but never would you usually describe it as strong, "Paranoid" and uniquie maybe but not strong. Thats the first thing that hits you about this album, it sounds like OLP whilst at the same time not soundinglike them.
Sorry for that little rant, the lyrics although also sounding like OLP again sound different, too much form and too much commeercial appeal perhaps, as this for one seems to have a chorusey part thats very evidentally a chorus. Maybe I'm being harsh on one of my favourite bands because the song isn't bad, it's just not what I've come to expect from the group. Perhaps this is the problem. Still a good song in it's own right. 8/10
The second song "Do you like it", this is a bit more like it Raine's vocals have the paranoid feel to them, and sound worried and edgy brilliant, the though lyrics again have a commercial feel to them they still sound really well put together, this is a far better song than the previous one. I may have been harsh with the review of the opener, or maybe they wanted people to go "What the...this is olp's new release?" before bursting out a typical OLP song. Everything you'd expect fromthe band, brilliant lyrics and vocals with a wonderful electric guitar backing sound. 10/10
"Somewhere out there" follow's Raine's voice this time feels between the two, starting off kinda paranoid, with good lyrical images, although the songs not one of my favourites, it's still a song that gets me nodding my head to it. Despite this i feel theres something missing from the song that "Do you like it" had, maybe it's the slower tempo, or the softer guitar feel, I'm not sure. My girlfriends a big fan of the song, which is odd as I can't personally see the appeal of the song compared to the rest of OLP's stuff, though again maybe it's the fact it was one of the first songs by the band that she heard, where as I've been a fan for a few years. 6/10
"Innocent" This is arguably my favourite track off the album, despite again not sounding particularly like their previous tracks, it has a really good sound to it, and Raine does do a lot with his voice. The backing music sits well with the singing and the lyrics, the catchy feel to the chorus hits home and the verses are sublime. The only bad thing is it seems 30 seconds too long, which is a shame as it's a great track. 9/10
"Made of steel" Another great track with a great opening riff that gets you in there to rock out then Raine's vocals hit you and you start tapping your toes to the music. The lyrics are again fantastic, with several references to superman (the man of steel...), I'm not too sure what the real meaning is to this song despite some feelings about it being about depression. A song that gets you thinking what the lyrics really mean. 9/10
"Not enough" Almost a throw back to the previous album, the easy guitar intro, the soft drums then the awakening of the sad vocals, the song opening up with deep thoughtful lyrics. Again perhaps mising a vital ingredient, much like a cup of tea needs a sugar, but you can't quite see whats missing. I'm presuming it's a heavier guitar rock sound personally, as opposed to Raine's vocals which are as always fantastic. However the bridge sounds so much better than the rest of the track if the track was done like the bridge, the track would be a 10/10 though as it is, it's an 8/10.
"Sell my soul" A nice opening guitar peice, with a kinda vocal display that has Raine going from paranoid to confident and back several times in the opening verse, the vocals here seem a bit more simple to most of OLP's song's which is a shame really. Though the song is good it's nothing fantastic, not terrible just not amazing, another song that feels like it's missing that something that was seen in "Do you like it". 8/10
"Sorry" is the 8th track on the album and if your a real OLP fan you're kinda feeling a lil disappointed by now and wondering if the last 3 songs are any better. Well "Sorry" sounds a lil livelier and happy, with great imagery and a faster tempo, not quite upto their high standards from previous albums but a good song all the same. Wonderfully captivating lyrics, that force you to join in through the chorus. The bridge is also sublime and a wonderful way to lead to the outro. A very good song indeed, but not quite perfect. 9/10
If you've not thrown on "Happinness is not a fish you can catch" or "Spiritual machines" or "Clumsy" then you'll be listening to "Bring back the sun" next.
"Bring back the sun" Another soft intro to the song with maybe confusing lyrics and a paranoid but not quite there vocal performance by Raine. The soft vocal's are a nice change from the harder hitting singing from throughout the album, and the song does seem to have a happy undertone to it, but maybe not overly happy. I'm not sure, but I must admit I like it, would have worked very well as the last track on the album, due to it's softness, and maybe even the lyrics, could in a way be taken as meaning "bring back Mike Turner" (see the end of the review). 8/10
"A story about a girl" Another soft start, with very good lyrics and almost a change of direction to the album, better than almost every song on the disk by quite a distance, great vocals and lyrics with the background music actually being there or there abouts. A head nodding tempo that just feels right, not the song I'd have ended the album on personally ("Bring back the sun" would have been) but I guess it's worth listening through the album for this gem. 9/10
The missing link for those interested are two things, 1 is Mike Turner the former lead guitarist of the band having left before the album was recorded, the second was infact Raine Maida's falsetto being totally ousted for the clean cut vocals you here on the album.
Compared to other albums on the whole it's a great album (despite my cynical review) it's just not a great our lady peace album, so of course, to an our lady peace fan they will be disappointed, to people who like modern commercial soft rock, I'd stronly advise they pick this up.
I can honestly say i have never been as disappointed with an album in my life as i was the first time 'Gravity' had finished limping out of my stereo. After the near genius that was Our Lady Peace's previous effort the quite magnificent 'Spiritual Machines' you could be excused for expecting nothing short of a masterpiece here but instead what you get is a heavily watered down affair devoid of any emotion and with two eyes firmly on the mainstream.
Gone are everything that made Our Lady Peace such an original concept, Raine Maida'a impressively ranged vocal histrionics are replaced by a completely unadventurous post grunge monotone vocal that makes you wonder if it's the same man. Also gone are the criptic, inventive lyrics that were an OLP staple replaced by the kind of bland universal affair that may as well have come from a Nickleback album. And the music...well that may have been taken from a Nickleback album.
As for the songs, Things start promisingly with the brilliant 'All For you' Keeping up with a degree of musical and lyrical inventiveness but it's all down hill from there. By the time first single 'Somewere out there' flops out at you with all the passion of a dead fish you realise the album is never going to get better and that you may never look at this band the same way again.
It's not all negative stuff and the band do pull out the occasional gem like the atmospheric 'Not Enough' but for that we have to sit through the generic radio rock of 'Innocent' Do You Like It' and the bad beyond belief 'Made of Steele'.
Remember them for what they were not what they are now
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 All For You
2 Do You Like It
3 Somewhere Out There
5 Made Of Steel
6 Not Enough
7 Sell My Soul
9 Bring Back The Sun
10 Story About A Girl