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Our Lady Peace: Happiness...

An album you should catch

By Dan Katz

Staff Writer

It’s tightly produced, it’s cleverly written, and its cover bears a great picture of an old guy holding a fish. After finally breaking into the American music scene with “Superman’s Dead” and “Clumsy,” popular Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace follow up their sophomore album with Happiness... Is Not A Fish You Can Catch, a disc filled with catchy but jarring tunes that will leave you humming their music but struggling to remember exactly how it went.

The album’s biggest development over its predecessor is the increased use of swirling space effects and altered delay, sounds reminiscent of the prechorus of “Clumsy.” These guitar effects add a wide, epic feel to the leading single, “One Man Army,” the soaring “Happiness & The Fish,” and the infectious “Lying Awake.” A bouncy piano part shows up in “Annie,” and the group even uses chimes to achieve an almost orchestral effect in “Potato Girl” and “Blister.”

OLP singer/lyricist Raine Maida has been compared repeatedly to Smashing Pumpkins’ vocalist Billy Corgan; frankly, I don’t see it. Both have a nasal quality to their voices, but Corgan’s high notes are more raspy than musical, while Maida’s strong falsetto is chillingly accurate. In terms of lyrics, Maida covers quite a bit of ground, ranging from typical alt-rock pessimism (“Bored again by happiness / all those friends I’ve lost in there”), triumphant victory (“I remember marching like a one man army ... I believe in something”), and oddly gripping characters (“There’s something in the way she makes believe / please be careful / Annie dreams that everyone is dead.”)

Our Lady Peace’s guitar lines are anything but typical. Some of them, such as “Is Anybody Home?” are built around droning riffs that seem to sing a countermelody, while “Potato Girl” lurches into chord changes at unexpected moments, making its chorus seem to tumble and leap at unexpected moments. The band’s drum lines are even stranger, beating strange syncopated cadences, and often keeping a steady tempo but changing slightly in rhythm. The songs incorporate tunes that are gripping and catchy, enhancing them with innovative backgrounds.

If there’s anything to be attacked on this album, it’s the length, measuring eleven tracks and under 45 minutes. Of those tracks, the final one, “Stealing Babies,” is a decent song, but an unsatisfying closer. Also, the band’s last album was dominated by dark-sounding songs, and this one has a lot more tracks with a brighter tone. While it’s not a bad change, songs like “Thief” have a bit too much of a pop feeling to them, possibly because at every chorus they feel obligated to jump into optimism.

Still, Happiness ... Is Not A Fish You Can Catch is an exceptional album. Its meandering instrumental lines set it apart from the rest of the alternative music world, but its accessible melodies and excellent vocals make it a CD that any modern rock fan will enjoy. Buy this album, if for nothing else than the picture on the inside where the old guy actually tries to eat the fish. I bet you’ll love the music too.