Our Lady Peace
Literary references have crept into Rock since the late '60s. "Our Lady Peace" was the title of a 1943 Mark van Doren poem. "Spiritual Machines" Our Lady Peace's semi-concept album was based on the writings of Ray Kurzweil who provided "readings" throughout the CD. Guitarist Mike Turner stumbled across Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence," while on tour and got the rest of the group interested.
Back in '92, Turner partnered with University of Toronto student, vocalist Raine Maida. They asked Duncan Coutts to join on bass but Coutts wanted to finish school. Smart guy. So Chris Eacrett signed on but by '95 he was out and Coutts, having finished school, was in. Also, Jim Newell was on drums but he soon left for a "day job" and seventeen-year-old Jimmy Taggart joined.
Our Lady Peace's debut "Naveed" spawned the modern Rock hit "Starseed" but not a lot more, except a tour with Alanis Morissette. Both "Clumsy" and "Happiness Is Not A Fish You Can Catch" hit in '97. These CDs were warm-ups for "Spiritual Machines." The lyrics focused on the spirituality within each person and took a relatively upbeat view of the future.
Hopefully, Our Lady Peace had a good health plan because they needed it. During the "Spiritual Machine's" session Taggart was injured and Soundgarden's Matt Cameron filled in on a couple tracks. In early '01, Coutts had pancreatic surgery. Rob Higgins subbed for the tour.
With work on "Gravity" underway, (guitarist Mike) Turner left citing "creative differences." Steve Mazur filled the vacancy.
'02's "Gravity" was seen as a move toward the mainstream. Some critics and fans groused about that but Taggart weighed in claiming it was "by far their best album."
The following year, Our Lady Peace issued "Live" which was recorded on Canadian tours.
"Healthy In Paranoid Times" was fraught with difficulties. Forty-five songs were recorded for the '05 set. That took a considerable time. In addition, the band nearly broke up. At least part of the problem was the result of their label's demand that the group double-down on a commercial trajectory. "(The) record was total excess, total bullshit in the sense of, we finally had succumbed to a label: making us record that many songs, trying to find the right singles for American radio and MTV," said Maida.
Our Lady Peace released their "Decade" compilation in '06. That was followed by a hiatus (no surprise there) but Maida kept busy with his solo debut "The Hunter's Lullaby." The group reconvened in February, '07, and with Maida producing they recorded approximately 30 songs (a more manageable number) by March, '09. Maida liked the production role and "not (having) anybody intrude on (recording) sessions." The material was distilled to ten songs for the July, '09, album "Burn Burn." Maida called the result a "proper Rock album."
1999 Happiness... Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch
2000 Spiritual Machines
2005 Healthy In Paranoid Times
2009 Burn Burn
Our Lady Peace has a handful of modern Rock hits ("Starseed," "Superman Is Dead," "Blister," etc.). Their CDs "Naveed," "Clumsy" and "Happiness Is Not A Fish You Can Catch" have their moments but "Spiritual Machines" is their best effort. Not only do they pull off the futuristic concept, it Rocks.
Listening to "Gravity" and "Healthy In Paranoid Times" it seems Sony's intent was to mold Our Lady Peace into the Canadian U2. Does the world really need that?
On the plus side Maida is a strong and expressive vocalist and the band is tight. "Gravity" has the ballads "Somewhere Out There" and "Made Of Steel," plus the mid-tempo "Innocent."
"Healthy In Paranoid Times" opens with "Angels/Losing/Sleep," where they just about nail the U2 thing, while "The World On A String" is a competent yet blatant attempt to generate a hit. Just a couple years later, Daughtry took that very sound straight to the bank.
There's the shaky but promising debut. And the sophomore slump or the third album drop-off where the original inspiration has been wrung dry. But what about a seventh album? There really isn't any catch-phrase or short-hand crutch. Unless the lead singer's uncle owns the label, a seventh album means a group has staying power and a capability for re-invention.
"Burn Burn" illustrates both characteristics. "All You Did Was Save My Life," is a catchy guitar driven hit if ever there was one. But the track that jumps is The Clash-like "Monkey Brains."