Well Our Lady Peace is certainly in an interesting predicament right now, huh? Their latest album, Healthy in Paranoid Times threatened to break the band up, and certainly did not achieve the same successes as its predecessor, Gravity, either both in the United States or the band's home country of Canada. Not only that, they seem to have sort have fallen off the face of the planet since they finished their Paranoid Times Tour in 2006, releasing a (rather good) greatest hits album as well as a couple short updates. And finally, the band has also been accused of selling out, streamlining their sound, and giving in to the over-produced, radio rock ideals of the "evil" Bob Rock. But they didn't fall into this hole overnight, particularly in the final point. Nah, Our Lady Peace began travelling down this road quite awhile ago, perhaps as early as their 2000 effort, Spiritual Machines.
This, however, isn't to say that Spiritual Machines was a poor effort. While it was their least successful studio release to date, it remains a very important transition album in their career. Even way back on their debut album, Naveed, Our Lady Peace has always been a catchy, radio-friendly band. But with Spiritual Machines Raine Maida and friends take the group's pop sensibilities to a new level. Two of Spiritual Machines' singles, Right Behind You (Mafia) and Life, as well as Made to Heal adopt this more mainstream feel and make use of it rather well. Both songs rely on the soft verse-uplifting chorus format, a staple in many of their recent songs, as well as a calmer, more restrained Raine Maida. On both Life and Right Behind You, Maida has more or less ditched the falsetto vocal melodies which he used almost exclusively on Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch. Much like the song structures themselves, Maida's vocal efforts are of the mid-ranged variety and as result - more straightforward and easier to digest. Fairly generic for a rock album perhaps, but still effective none the less.
However, like I mentioned earlier, Spiritual Machines is more of a transition album than a downright delve into radio rock. So the album still contains some of the quirkier jams that previous albums held, particularly nearing the end of the album with songs such as All My Friends, If You Believe and The Wonderful Future. Spiritual Machines' closing track, The Wonderful Future is a fairly good testament to such endeavours. One of the most mellow tracks on the album, it is highlighted by Jeremy Taggart's jazzy drumming during the verses, as well as the soothing atmospheric effects and melodic guitar line during the choruses and bridges. Maida's higher ranged vocal style comes into play during the choruses, and while it is not as extreme, or quite frankly bizarre as it once was, it fits the song's calm, peaceful structure.
Said vocal style is also made use of in Spiritual Machines' strongest two songs, All of My Friends and If You Believe. Much like The Wonderful Future, both of the songs are calm, collective offerings (though the former is definitely softer than the later); yet manage to be infectious and memorable all the same. In a way they reflect both Spiritual Machines and Our Lady Peace's changing face rather well. The band's formula no longer relies on the heaviness which Naveed's Dirty Walls and Supersatellite indulged in, nor the energy of the Starseeds and Superman's Deads. They haven't gone completely mellow on us as songs such as Middle of Yesterday, Everyone's a Junkie, and perhaps even Right Behind You show us, but they aren't about to wow anybody with bursts of distorted guitars or energetic fury. But at the same time they aren't, you know, passive offerings.
Despite the its abundance in quality tracks, I found Spiritual Machines to be the most difficult of Our Lady Peace's albums to get in to. As a transition between two eras in the band's sound, it does not contain the same fun, rocking sound of their latest albums, nor does it ooze the same infectious 90's alt rock charm of the band's early albums. Perhaps some combined hybrid of the two was attempted, but it is not as particularly obvious as in Our Lady Peace's other efforts. Regardless, the Canadian band's fourth album finds them experimenting with both a more accessible sound and fairly mellow, reflective sound to go along with the introspective lyrical approach to Spiritual Machines. Despite what one might assume, the short, spoken interludes intertwined between the album's songs do not really disrupt the flow of Spiritual Machines. I'm not entirely positive of their significance, as Spiritual Machines does not really come off as a concept album, but knowing Raine Maida, its probably some diabolical plot forcing people to think. Or something. Regardless, Spiritual Machines remains a quality release. Definitely a grower, but still worth looking into all the same.
All My Friends
If You Believe
The Wonderful Future