Newest Review: ... Behind You (Mafia)" starts the musical proceedings off, with what was (then) a typical OLP track, a guitar laden track behi... more
Big Green Monkey Everyones a Junkie
Spiritual Machines - Our Lady Peace
Member Name: iamasadlittleboy
Spiritual Machines - Our Lady Peace
Advantages: Vocals, Music, Unique sound, Lyrics
Disadvantages: Might be a lil too weird for some
Our Lady Peace are a band that originally I'd gotten into from their WWF/WWE track "Whatever" which was done for Chris Benoit in the 1990's. After this thanks to illegal music downloads I'd managed to get a few of their other tracks, "Not Enough", "Somewhere out there" and I can't remember the third track, were enough to get my hooked. Sadly however, despite many attempts to to try and buy their CD's they appeared elusive until whilst on a school trip to Manchester I managed to find an HMV store with "Happiness is not a Fish That you Can Catch", so with out a second thought it was purchased there and then.
A few years later my mother got me "Gravity" for Christmas and by then it was obvious the band had changed (for the worse) between the album I had. It was obvious the change had lead from the falsetto of the lead singer Raine Maida had all but vanished on Gravity whilst it had been the driving force behind the wonderfully brilliant "Happiness...".
Though traipsing though a local market on the way to work I finally spotted the missing link, one of the most difficult OLP albums to get was sitting there on a second hand CD stall called "Fat Bobs". Spiritual Machine. The title was all that was needed, it would seem old Fatty was unaware of it's relative rarity as he sold me it for £3, about 75% than a shop would.
So OLP, for those of you who don't share my reverence towards the band are a Canadian alternative Rock band (who in recent years do seem to be heading more towards mainstream rock sadly), formed in Toronto in 1992, consisting of lead man Raine Maida, guitarist Mike Turner, bassist Chris Eacrett and Jim Newell on percussion. The line up has altered significantly since then, with Raine as the only mainstay in the band, with the current line up being Maida, Jeremy Taggart on percussion, Duncan Coutts with bass and backing vocals, and Steve Mazur with guitar and more backing vocals.
At the time of Spiritual Machines, the line up was Maida, Turner (who would leave the band as a full time member after the album), Taggart, Matt Cameron (who would fill in for Taggart on two tracks) and Coutts.
The album was to follow OLP's 3 previous studio albums, in Naveed (1995), Clumsy (1997) and Hapiness... (1999), with it's own release in 2001. The title is taken from a science fiction book "The age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil, who features in the album, the book was published in 1999. The books plot is based around the future of computing, relating the concepts of the author to the character of Molly who gets referenced in the album, the idea being that in the future humans and computers will be the same thing.
The book was purchased by Turner when the band were on tour and they were so wrapped up in it that they created the album and hired Kurzweil to read select passages throughout.
So now onto the actual album:
R.K Intro, is a mere 6 seconds excerpt from the book that is an intro, nothing else, musically it means nothing, and should perhaps be seen as a set up part by a narrator than as anything with any substantial meaning in the album's musical forewarding.
"Right Behind You (Mafia)" starts the musical proceedings off, with what was (then) a typical OLP track, a guitar laden track behind Maida's unique sounding vocals. For fans of the Happiness album (like myself) this was a welcome return to the familiar OLP sound that had gotten me so interested in the first place. The lyrics although complex in places are still easy enough for them to have a catchy hook in places, the chorus especially falling into this category. The track feels so full of energy and as a result makes the album sounds fresh and brilliant, despite it now being around 8 years old, it still sounds brand new, with the sort of electric energy of the once in a life time pop songs that come around every few summers like "mmm bop" did. Difference being this is a top rock tune, not a bubble gum pop song.
Another excerpt sandwiches the track with a slightly longer one this time, R.K. 2029 which is 14 seconds and relates back to the book, where it's started to take the computers as being almost equal to the humans that created them.
"In Repair" although not quite as musically aggressive as the previous musical track does again sound reminiscent of the brilliant Happiness album. The track features heavily on the percussion set, as well as Raines vocals which as they did back in this era of OLP, took the band high above many of the similar bands out there. The track is full of catchy lyrical pieces that also lead to the concept of robots and machines, with terms like "metal" and "wheels" being mentioned, as well as the obvious "repair" and "machine". The track seems to work a lot off Kurzweil's second spoken piece on the album, so it's inclusion seems fairly well placed. Like right behind you, the track was released as a single as well, so to was the following track.
"Life", the third musical track from the album, a much sadder song, with a deep undertone of loneliness and rejection in the lyrics, which Maida sings with such pure clarity that the audience can't miss out on the concept of how messed up life is, despite humans ability to adapt. The music is softer this time, and feels somewhat restrained in part to allow the vocals to carry the song, though when the music does erupt, it seems to die down quickly enough as to not take the song in a different direction than the one it seemingly was headed down. The hook near the end has been one of my favourite parts in OLP's music for a long time (I'm going to guess this was the third pirated song I got).
"Middle of Yesterday", seems to be more depressed than the previous song, and somewhat lost with the singer seemingly singing about a drink/drug problem (a hangover perhaps?) talking about problems and how things will turn out OK in the end. The song seems to also talk about the singers problems in relation to someone else and going out of control as well as making mistakes again furthering the idea of a drug addiction. Musically the song seems heavier and more rocky than the previous tracks, where Maida's vocals are challenged by a strong musical accompaniment that brings the track to the forefront of the album as one of the musical highlights of the album.
"Are you sad", back to the soft emotional sounds of "Life" the lyrics are relatively poetic and pretty, talking about Angels and Fire early on. The song although not the strongest is one of the most beautifully sung and interesting due to the restraint in the vocals of Maida and the solemn regretful sound of the track. The track (obviously) questioning the listener emotionally, would probably appear to play on the fact that "by now" in the concept, the computers have started to develop emotions equal to that of their human creators, which is put together with the previous song, could be an attempt to show that whilst man has gone crazy, the computers have started to take over. Another way to view it could well be that the "drug" addict has is on a come down. Alternatively I'm just reading too much into it.
However the song does seem to go on a bit too long and this is kinda a bit slow to be dragged out as long as it is.
R.K. 2029 pt 2, the excerpt mentions that it's now become legally questionable as to what is human and what is a computer.
"Made to Heal", a metallic guitar sound, perhaps playing to the computer based life of the book. The track seems to question morals and ethics early on, but ignoring the lyrics the song is one of my favourites on the album, the almost rushed sound of the music alongside the excellent vocals that just peak here, in the most creative song on the album. The chorus is exactly what you need to think of when you think of OLP at there best, the track. The track should remind many of the Naveed album with it's energy and all round loud sounding fast brilliant tracks that the album's title track nailed so well.
Another Kurzweil excerpt is read out in "R.K. 1949-97" which shows how far computers had come from the date of George Orwell's "1984" (written in 1949) to the day of the albums release in 1997 which was when "Deep Blue" beat Gary Kasprov in chess.
"Everyones a Junkie", a song almost seemingly about religious rebellion and a closure of life from the mainstream, as someone seems to hide behind their television. The song features the brilliant "Big green monkey, everyone's a Junkie". The song could lyrically be about the person questioning their individuality, whilst the computer has started living and searching for answers to questions that they don;t know, the advancement of knowledge being one of the keys to humans. Musically the song is brilliantly wide scoping, with multi-layered vocals on top of the musical backing, which envelope a wonderfully creative side of OLP even for this album. The track definitely has remnants of the previous album through out it with the musical side being relatively strong with Raines falsetto as usually running over the top.
"R.K. On Death" talks about the concept of death and how it's a necessity in society to make us value life and time. This (spoiler for the book) relates to how the AI of the future creates backups of it's self to form an immortal way to live.
"All my friends" The song seems to speaking about the characters friends not being "equipped", as if the upgrades of people to machine is taking place as the song takes place. Raines voice goes higher and more piercing than anywhere else in the album, where the upgrades seem to be taking during the song where his friends start to think "mechanical" thoughts in the second verse. By the third verse the implication of the character actually being upgraded painfully (with the screams of "no") is possibly a major turning point in the album. The sacrifice of death as spoken about in the previous excerpt may well be mention in song form in this track.
"If you believe", springs out at you like a typical OLP song from the heavy guitar and the vocals straight from the previous album. The song seems to indicate the people have now become a computerised stream as opposed to a physical being, and actually regrets it. Though musically the song is something special, and much like middle of tomorrow the song just sounds like a vast sonic sound scape of brilliance. Vocals that show Raine's variance between a screeching rip roaring vocal anger, to a falsetto set with emotional, the music ranges from the terrifyingly electrically charged to the restrained brilliance that allows the vocalist the true charge of the track.
"The Wonderful Future" is the final track on the album, and starts entirely differently to the vast part of the album. A lot softer start, with almost a poetic vocal styling and the lyrical relaxation of a"wonderful" nature. The song is arguably about the future that the book predicts where the blood and flesh of humans, live on an equal playing field with robotic AI, the singer seemingly being a human in a robots world. The long dragged out vocals with the soft musical backing work as always well together for the first 4 minutes or so of the song. The songs complete difference to the rest of the album in backing music sound is a bizarre movement, that finishes the album off nicely.
Well finishes it for a while after about 12 minutes of silence on the album, a hidden track is played, with Ray Kurzweil talking to Molly, the character from the book. The conversation seems to be self referential to the book and has Molly accepting that she's no longer a human in 2099, talking to Ray still in 1999. Molly references her kids from the book, who are now 90 and how the music of the futures AI cannot be understood by the humans from the 20th century. In the book, it turns out the "author's" predictions turn out to be right, whilst some sexual innuendo is played up on during the ending of the conversation, where Molly offers to be anything to the author.
The bizarre ending of the album shows the way in which OLP were being incessantly creative during the process of CD. Though by now means a successful (commercially speaking) the album does fill in some of the holes between "Happiness" and "Gravity" that I had, and it a must by buy for all OLP fans. I'd consider it as both the creative highlight and the end of the old OLP which were lyrically creative and allowed Raine's voice to do the talking. With their commercially mainstream follow up taking those away for a more default radio friendly sound.
Summary: In the future, you won't understand music...