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cd review: ...Our Lady Peace... Can...t Catch a Break

Latest From Rock Band is Solid, Not Spectacular

By Andrew Guerra

Healthy in Paranoid Times

Our Lady Peace

Sony Music

Released on Aug. 30, 2005

One almost has to feel sorry for Our Lady Peace. The Canadian quintet is one of the most popular rock bands in its native land, but after attempting to break into the mainstream here in the States for over a decade, they still remain a “One Hit Wonder.” This meager accomplishment is in spite of the players’ ability to create genuinely good songs in the deluge of mass-manufactured music that has recently dominated the American mainstream. Their latest, “Healthy in Paranoid Times,” won’t be the CD to change their relative obscurity, but its maturity and integrity bode well for the band’s future.

Our Lady Peace released their first album, “Naveed,” in 1994, but the earliest work that Americans will probably have heard is off their second release, 1997’s “Clumsy,” which featured “Superman’s Dead,” “Clumsy,” and “4 AM.” “Clumsy” is in many ways typical of Our Lady Peace’s sound, with heavy electric guitar riffs, raw emotions, minimal polish, and a lead singer, Raine Maida, who at times screeches in tune more than he sings.

Their most mainstream CD, “Gravity,” also features the song with which they won their One Hit Wonder status, “Somewhere Out There.” It’s almost eerie how much this song mirrored Train’s “Drops of Jupiter;” as both are about a boy yearning for a girl who left him to explore outer space and find herself. “Gravity” was a departure for Our Lady Peace — it is more emotionally subdued and heavily produced than their previous albums. Maida’s voice and the guitar were softened for mainstream consumption, and while the CD may have technically been as good as the band’s previous work, it was also bland and felt artistically dishonest in comparison.

This brings us to “Healthy,” their first release with new material following “Gravity.” This album splits the difference between “Clumsy” and “Gravity,” and comes out the better for it. The heavy production of “Gravity” has been significantly reduced, and the songs have the sort of garage band feel that “Clumsy” did. The raw emotions of “Clumsy” don’t reappear, but after a decade of aging, it doesn’t make sense for Our Lady Peace to return to the angst and anger of their youth. Instead, songs on “Healthy” deal genuinely, if subtly, with relationships and social injustice. Of course, to match these renewed emotions, the guitar again is amplified, and the screeching returns, though it is used more effectively and not as often as in “Clumsy.”

“Healthy,” however, is far from perfect. While there aren’t any outright bad songs on the album, most of the songs are only mediocre, with the only standouts being “Angels/Losing/Sleep,” “Al Genina,” and perhaps the best “fuck you” song I’ve heard in a while, “Wipe That Smile Off Your Face.” Our Lady Peace’s sound isn’t exactly ground-breaking either, and since most of the songs are just decent, there’s a certain sense that you’ve heard it all before. Finally, while Maida’s voice has improved from earlier albums, there are still rough moments in some songs, especially, as one might imagine, while he’s screeching.

Our Lady Peace deserves better than to be relegated to One Hit Wonder status, and there is much to enjoy from “Healthy in Paranoid Times.” They probably won’t make it into your favorite CD collection with this one, but if you’re a fan of heavier types of rock, you owe it to yourself to check out their older stuff and keep an eye out for them in the future.