Review Summary: The Hunters Lullaby is more consistently brilliant than anything Maida has produced this century
Simplicity is the ethic behind Raine Maida’s debut record The Hunters Lullaby
, and the complex ethical challenges of modern life its dominant theme. Never a typical activist singer, Maida’s first foray outside heavy rock is anything but a typical protest album. He does protest, and occasionally condemns, but there’s no single issue or common enemy. In a rapidly changing world, every man’s ethical struggle is his own, and no millionaire rock star is more privy to the correct answers than the rest of us. If there’s one central message that can be drawn from The Hunters Lullaby
, it’s that living the “right way” will never be easy, if possible at all, and it’s an important distinction to draw before tossing the record carelessly in the American Idiot
The music, too, is difficult to reconcile with what we’ve come to expect from the multi-talented singer. In place of the standard four-minute alternative rock song with all the quiets, louds and catharses that implies, The Hunters Lullaby
’s ten tracks are lean and uncluttered, sparse arrangements making use of only acoustic instruments. Raine uses the reclaimed space to shift the focus back upon his lyrics, which are more focused and still yet more universal than most of his Our Lady Peace output, allowing him to use the deeper, less expressive voice he’s cultivated in recent years. The words more closely resemble poems than lyrics, a welcome by-product of his newfound obsession with slam poetry, and though it makes for a less obviously melodic offering, any shortcomings are made up by the quality of the material.
While it would be easy to overstate the prevalence of slam-type vocalising on The Hunters Lullaby
, it is the one standout feature that differentiates it from Maida’s past, with the exception of a couple of Healthy In Paranoid Times
’s (Our Lady Peace’s sixth and most recent album) more understated tracks. The tracks build from the bottom, generally starting with a beat or a simple melodic idea, and build from that base. For instance, ‘Sex Love And Honey,’ one of four tracks that first appeared on the Love Hope Hero
EP last year, supplements a strong break beat with a simple guitar chord progression and light smatterings of piano and ghostly female backing vocals, both courtesy of Raine’s wife Chantal Kreviazuk.
‘China Doll’ is more melodic than most, but the focus is still firmly on the words, as Raine sings: “She’s sweet like honey, sour like democracy [...] she’ll be your greatest lover, but she doesn’t belong to you.”
Impressively, the ambiguity is such that it could just as easily be read as a passionate yearning for a sometimes lover as it could its true inspiration, man’s destruction of the earth and the environment. Intense closer ‘One Second Chance,’ another track promoted from the EP, is more explicit than that. He mourns the lack of political action is today’s society, rapping: “I saw Abbie Hoffman’s ghost in the distance. We’ve got Saul Williams keeping up the resistance. ‘Cause our politicians they don’t have a position.”
‘Earthless’ shifts the focus back down to earth, charting the struggle of a young girl to fit in and find her own place in the world. “ she’s courageous but scared to death- but that’s what courage means.”
‘Careful What You Wish For,’ opens the album with an aggressive piano motif reminiscent of Dresden Dolls. It’s one of the more dynamic and heavily orchestrated tracks on the album, and also one of the highlights. Maida becomes ever more agitated as he and Chantal play off each other’s vocals, though it’s his mother he addresses as he imagines leaving for California. “I’m an Italian Catholic punk and I’m on my way.”
His uncertainty shines through, as it often does through the course of the album, in the tagline, “I’ll be careful what I wish for in this life, ‘cause I know I’ll miss yesterday.”
A newer track, (The More I Learn) ‘The Less I Know,’ is simpler in construction but more dynamic in speed and volume, culminating in a rip-roaring anti-Bush tirade by Sage Francis alumnus Jared Paul, taking a moving track to an equally thrilling climax.
With these exceptions and lead single ‘Yellow Brick Road,’ the only obvious crossover hit, the bulk of the tracks stick to the formula of using the minimum number of instruments for the greatest effect, and Maida handles the balance perfectly. Lyrically and musically, The Hunters Lullaby
is more consistently brilliant than anything the singer’s been part of since Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch