Our Lady Peace – [CD & DVD]

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Anyone that has been following Our Lady Peace since the band's debut appeared in 1994 had an couldn't have not had inkling of what was coming because the progression the band has followed has been exactly the same one that so many other beloved bands have charted. For the curious, the path goes about like this: appear and make a splash with the first album, set the world on fire and become a household name at the release of sophomore effort, reclaim a sense of artistic integrity with record three before floundering at the loss of a key founding member with album number four and then embark upon a progression of creatively reaching and reconciling the choices made with each following release thereafter. Such a claim sounds like the pinnacle of critical damning with the absolute minimum of faint praise, but it isn't designed to; simply said, OLP has suffered from a bad case of having no significant outside stimulus to spur them recently so, while they've continued to record, it's been a series of muddles efforts split between towing a creative line and earnestly trying to find something that kicks everyone (both fans and the bandmembers themselves) in the ass.

It took a while, but Our Lady Peace finally found some exterior stimulus to spur their imaginations: time – or, more specifically, age.

With the remaining core membership of Our Lady Peace now pushing (or sitting squarely on) forty, the changes that play out on Burn Burn Burn do so precisely as one might expect but the sirprise comes from how well it's executed; like Talking Heads, John Lydon after the first crash of the Sex Pistols amd Billy Corgan has done since jettisoning James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins, Our Lady Peace has imposed a vested effort to grow up and age their sound to keep up with their core fan base. Unlike those bands though (exception being Talking Heads) they're doing it with delicacy and taking their time to do it; easing fans into the changes.

First and foremost, the two central themes and lyrical motifs that have dominated Our Lady Peace's albums for fifteen years (“Are you okay?” and “Is there anybody home?”) are all-but-absent from Burn Burn Burn and in their place rest far more self-assured statements (no more questions) that rock hard rather than letting loud/soft dynamics drive or dominate. Instead, for the first time ever, OLP dabbles in some more adventurous song structures; after hitting the ground running with “All You Did Was Save My Life,” singer Raine Maida closes the book on the “Are you okay”/”Are you alright” debacle on “Dreamland” (“The kids are alright” in no uncertain terms), tries on some Combat Rock-style stomp in “Monkey Brains” and some U2-esque, biggest-band-in-the-world power in “The End Is Where We Begin” before backing off for a minute to look at their handiwork.

Burn Burn Burn does bog down at the mid-section with some overwrought, ballad-esque filler (“Refuge,” “Never Get Over You”) but but, after that dalliance, the band does pull up its arena-ready socks for “White Flags” and coasts on the crest of that energy through “Signs Of Life” and the great, big, bring-it-on-home blast of “Paper Moon” that, for the first time since Clumsy, actually makes listeners believe the band is enjoying what they're doing rather than running through the motions. True, Maida leaves his anthemic-apoplectic high-falsetto vocal jumps in their box, but the singer makes up for it with some of the most original lyric sheets he's written in years. The album would be stronger if the “Bonus Tracks” – “Time Bomb” (which stands as proof that even rock stars get bored when there's nothing on television) and “The Right Stuff” (there's no chance anyone keeps a straight face through this one if they play it live – band included) – but, really, those songs were obviously appended to fill time and are generally inconsequential.

Equally superfluous is the DVD appended to this set which is sort of a 'Making Of' creation that follows the band into the studio although its legitimacy is suspect. The video of what is presumably rehearsal time has been overdubbed with studio cuts from the record which is a little silly but it's still touching because it gives viewers the impression that the band wanted to show fans something special – legitimate or not – and the effort is endearing if not wholly representative.

In the most critical terms, it goes without saying that Burn Burn Burn could have been pared down to an EP's-worth of honestly fantastic material, but even those songs that tread the status quo will appeal to fans that got hooked after Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch. Burn Burn Burn represents the next step and a new beginning for Our Lady Peace; they're aging gracefully and incorporating some arena histrionics here, but also growing to fit their own shoes. This band knows they're not kids anymore – most of the members have kids of their own, in fact – and happily, with Burn Burn Burn, they've put down childish things and started on new adventures.


Our Lady Peace online

Our Lady Peace myspace


“Time Bomb” –  Bonus track from Burn Burn Burn

“The Right Stuff” –  Bonus track from Burn Burn Burn


Burn Burn Burn
is out now and available here on Amazon .

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