OUR LADY PEACE Burn Burn (Coalition Entertainment)
Quickly, the truth: when was the last time Canadian alt-rock outfit, Our Lady Peace, made you pick up a CD? Unless you’re an avid follower (and discounting the two compilation albums in the meantime), the answer is likely to be four years ago in 2005, when they released their last studio album, Healthy In Paranoid Times. It’s pretty much an open secret that the recording process of that album wasn’t all too smooth. Under pressure from their label, Sony Music, for radio-friendly singles, the band came close to breaking up several times during that process. No surprise, then, that OLP left the label soon afterwards.
Which makes Burn Burn, their latest release, the band’s first record ever since leaving Sony Music as well as their first self-produced record. So has the change of scenery done the band any good? That depends on who you ask. Early on in the recording process lead singer and producer Raine Maida hinted at a back to basics sort of record, which of course got their fans all excited for the sort of vivid rawness OLP hasn’t displayed since 2002’s Gravity. It’s a tad more complicated than that though.
The record opens on the ridiculously named, but rather good All You Did Was Save My Life. Having stopped trying to be Bono like he did on the last record, Maida’s earnestness comes through here to gel perfectly with the punchy guitar riffs and anthemic bounce of the rhythm section. It’s a rather promising lead-in that will remind you of Snow Patrol’s edgier work. After that, however, it all goes disappointingly downhill. Dreamland is a mid-tempo effort that sounds closer to Gravity than it does to Naveed, and features some enjoyable guitar textures in the chorus, but is held back by lazy melodies that never manage to break out of the obvious and into the memorable.
The record’s most obvious problem starts manifesting about three tracks in. For a record that was produced by the lead singer, it’s baffling then that the vocal track is almost lost in the mix of the raw, vintage-OLP sounding Monkey Brains. Maida only truly comes to the forefront during the acoustic break, which really should have been the entire track anyway. Perhaps a proper producer might have catalysed the song towards that direction? Never mind that. The End Is Where We Begin is markedly U2ish with its swelling organ intro and delayed guitar riffs, but suffers from a conspicuous lack of hooks. The record picks up on the drums-driven Refuge, which, oddly enough, reminds me of Electrico’s Love In New Wave. Unfortunately instead of building up to a big finish, the record dissipates into MOR blandness, with Signs of Life in particular sounding like a stripped down cleaner version of—beware, here’s the foul N-Word coming– Nickelback.
It’s a real pity that Burn Burn never really lives up to its promise, because this could have been OLP’s chance for a big comeback. After all, there’s never been a better time for their sprawling brand of arena rock than now. Unfortunately, the record’s production suffers from the lack of a proper producer. Even more importantly, without an outsider to bounce ideas off and drive the band forward, Burn Burn just sounds like a lazily indulgent effort. It tries to combine both the aggressive bang of vintage OLP with the radio-friendliness of Gravity, but instead, falls flat into a puddle of alt-rock clichés instead. Underwhelming.
(Samuel C Wee)