Here on everydaymusic, we’re all about the people. And giving me a break whenever possible. Here’s guest columnist/professional asshole Chris Eastman reviewing the latest Our Lady Peace album, Burn, Burn.
Now, recently Alexei has been playing up this blog something major, flooding our Facebook feeds with mad linkage and water-logging our ears with free mp3s. I say this in the most positive way possible, of course – getting someone else’s take on an album or band is one of the smartest moves you can make as a consumer (harnessing the power of uTorrent ranks moderately higher), so you should continue reading. However, Yung Lex’s opinion means jack shit today, so fuck him, this is how Chris big boots the door in, inverts the pool table, and introduces thebarstools to the window, dramatically hijacking this blog … well, for the day, at least. An airplane jacking metaphor might make more sense, but in these post-9/11 times, the feds care way less if it’s just a watering hole. Alexei will of course be back tomorrow to clean up whatever chaos ensues. Or make it worse.
More to the point, today I will be reviewing Our Lady Peace’s latest album, released Tuesday, entitled Burn, Burn. It’s their seventh studio album, and the name is derived from a quote in Jack Kerouc’s On The Road, so this CD presents itself in elite company just via moniker. However, this is a band that’s been active for 17 years, and are arguably Canada’s greatest alternative rock musicians (I’m not counting The New Pornographers here) – so, I can’t allow myself to simply talk about their new shit, but instead I’ll give a brief history of the band, based on personal experience and a little bit of Wiki to keep facts in order. I’m only here to educate.
I first started listening to them in 2002, shortly after the release of Gravity (those of you unfamiliar with OLP may recognize the single “Somewhere Out There” from this album) and, even though critics widely consider it the beginning of a new, more mainstream Our Lady Peace, that’s exactly the kind of music I was into in 7th grade. Hooked like Captain James, I regressed from Gravity to their 4 previous albums, which had a grungier feel and sensational falsetto vocals out of lead singer Raine Maida , particularly on 1997’s Clumsy, widely regarded as their best work (and my personal favorite studio album). Maybe he just can’t reach those high notes anymore, but his decision to concentrate on baritone the past decade has transformed the band from nonpareil to in peril. Shortly after Gravity came their first live album, recorded at shows in Calgary and Edmonton – absolutely stunning. To hear Maida glide through his vocal range live and absolutely nail every note should be reason enough for any artist using AutoTune to move to Guyana and chug a pitcher of Kool-Aid. Oh, and the instrumental prowess from the studio to the stage is steadily stupendous. In 2005 they released the long-awaited Healthy In Paranoid Times, which further divulged their mainstream leanings, thanks mostly to their producer. Though far less unique than albums past, it’s a fantastically catchy album with some solid lyrics, and also marks the first time music inspired my writing (it’s a good thing my poetry teachers didn’t listen to OLP), but retains little replay value. Since then, they’ve released two compilation albums and a Raine Maida solo album which boils down to spoken word nonsense, disappointing for such an eccentric vocalist. And that brings us to July 2009.
Not only is the four year gap between studio albums the longest in Our Lady Peace history, it’s also the shortest [album], clocking in at just under 40 minutes. They dropped the old producer with Maida filling in this time around and promising a return to the sound of early days, with the added maturity many artists surmise they’ve developed. After recording over 40 songs for their last album and releasing just 12, the band wrote and recorded only 14 tracks for Burn, Burn, 10 of them making the final cut – too bad Matt Jones couldn’t do the same. Going into it, I had very mixed expectations – hyping up the return to proper alt rock, while at the same time releasing albums of descending quality, left me with no choice but to Chuck Norris my ass of all pre-conceived notions and start with a blank mind. Needless to say, I got unnaturally stoned, stripped down to my skivvies, and spent 38 minutes and 3 seconds laying out in the sun and getting my first taste of the album.
However, this band deserves more than just a run through, so here we go, track by track (music tracks, not the drug measurement track).
Track 1: “All You Did Was Save My Life”
The first single released from the album, this song immediately reminds me of Healthy In Paranoid Times. In fact, it could replace almost any song on that album and fit in flawlessly. Both the lyrics and the music are poppy and mainstream, so it’s a fun song to listen to. 4
Track 2: “Dreamland”
This track does what the album is supposed to: combine old and new OLP. Superior lyrics to the first song, with music that effectively creates a nexus of late 90’s/early 2000’s Our Lady Peace. It’s catchy, without the regular bitchiness of pop music. 4.5
Track 3: “Monkey Brains”
This is a for-sure (fo-sho?) throwback to the heavier era of the band, until halfway through the song the bridge hits with a smooth guitar riff and softer vocals, only to finish out the song with an intense instrumental performance. 4.5
Track 4: “The End Is Where We Begin”
Real good music with lots of easy rhymes. Another solid combination of young and aging OLP, but doesn’t stand out on the CD. It’s the white male Christian who drives a Toyota Camry of the album. 3.5 [Editor’s note: I don’t appreciate the jab at the Camry.]
Track 5: “Escape Artist”
“Escape Artist” was the initial name of Burn, Burn, so this track should exemplify what the album is going for. Great backing vocals, which OLP rarely incorporates. It does its job without complaining nor impressing, leveling out at a good track, which is about the only way I can describe it. I only have so many synonyms without the internet. 4
Track 6: “Refuge”
The opening chords and beat to this song are straight ill, quickly diving into delicate (for a rock band, mind you) vox and a toned down melody. Maida is back to vague life wisdom, claiming at one point “This human condition needs a hiding place,” a line that intrigues me. Not their best effort, not the worst, what do you want. 3.5
Track 7: “Never Get Over You”
When the title “Escape Artist” got demoted from album to song, the band took part of the chorus (“I burn, burn, burn, burn”), halved it, and poked its eye out, settling on Burn, Burn, if I haven’t mentioned the handle of the album enough. The girls he’s singing about likes hockey and summers by the lake, so clearly she’s a rad girl who deserves to be written about. In fact, she’s earned better lyrics than these. Kinda sappy, guys. Spending your late 30’s singing songs I’d expect from a teenager just isn’t gonna cut it. 3
Track 8: “White Flags”
Calling God lazy definitely scored points with me, and though the lyrics are pretty simple, at least they’re not lame and lovey dovey/heartbroken ramble. Catchy as hell, too. Definitely better than the two previous tracks. 4
Track 9: “Signs of Life”
This track slows the album down at the end, but not at all in a bad way. In fact, let’s not even say slow – it’s just “unhurried”. They take their time on this song, giving us uncomplicated lyrics that stave off contrived bullshit lines that often make themselves apparent. 4
Track 10: “Paper Moon”
This song calls out traffic jams, big screen televisions, and hipster douche bags. Qualities that would make me fall in love with a woman, but not a song. It’s slow and heavy (qualities that would make me fall back out of love with said woman), with average lyrics and a cool title. 3.5
Granted, there are two Bonus Tracks on the Deluxe Edition CD, “Time Bomb” and “The Right Stuff”. Unable to illegally download these two and further cripple the RIAA, I ended up just listening to 30 second clips on Amazon. They both sounded good, and judging by the lyrics they’re very much in sync with the rest of the album.
On the whole, it’s a good album – average for Our Lady Peace, but leagues better than the usual cacophony infiltrating the radio waves. In this decade, OLP has released 4 studio albums and 3 compilations (including their live album). Three compilations in 5 years? There comes a point when you’re not trying to make art, you’re just trying to make money. Plus, after some major “new album” hype and a long wait, it has difficulty re-establishing the bands roots.
It’s like someone telling you, “Hey, I’m gonna smoke you out until your farts smell like chronic and you’re burping up stems, then buy you ANYTHING you want fromZaxby’s, AND THEN take you to Bruster’s for a triple scoop waffle cone with sprinkles and peanuts and marshmallows, AND THEN we can go to Ollie Koala’s to see SpongeBob in person!” But, instead of doing all that, they give you a hit, take you to KFC, and then hit up Walgreens on the way home to buy a pint of vanilla Breyer’s to share while watching SpongeBob reruns in your living room. Is it dank? Well, yes, that’s my idea of a kickass evening. But, is it all it could have been? No, no, no.
Compared to all music, I give the album a 4.5 out of 5; compared to Our Lady Peace standards, a 3.5 out of 5; thus, with a clear conscience, I can give this album a 7.5 out of 10. You heard me, Alexei, fuck your five point rating system. [So, we’ll convert that to like… 3.75]
Overall: 3.75 / 5
And that, friends, is how to guest write for a music blog.