Music and politics, politics and music. 2005, like so many years before it, has seen the boundaries between the two temporarily blurred. The big occasion this year was the Live8 concert series, at which a multitude of fat, aging rockers told us what to do while younger, more popular acts concentrated on doing their jobs, i.e. music. The target was global poverty. During the week following the concerts, the leaders of the world�s 8 richest countries were to meet to discuss various world issues, including global poverty. An elite think-tank of political minds met to discuss a course of action with which they could convince the world�s two most powerful men that their way was the right way. They came up with a simple powerful message, �Wristbands For Sale.� The plan worked, Bono and Bob Geldof were delighted. A press conference was called immediately. The concerts which followed featured performances by U2, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, The Who, Green Day, Motley Crue, Brian Wilson, Bon Jovi and among dozens of other bands, Our Lady Peace
Since 2001 Raine Maida, frontman of Canadian alt-rockers Our Lady Peace, has been heavily involved with the War Child Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which operates with the objective of helping children affected by war, wherever in the world they may be. Four years ago, he traveled to Baghdad and Karbala and witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by war. Last year he spent time in Khartoum and Darfur, Sudan, highlighting the horror of the civil conflict there. Despite his best efforts, little has been done by the global community to combat the� combat. The band�s sixth studio album, Healthy In Paranoid Times
, is Maida�s diary-of-sorts. Here he releases the anger, frustration and heartbreak he�s built up on his travels.
Lead single Where Are You
(rhetorically phrased without a question mark) echoes the Killers and Franz Ferdinand while effortlessly surpassing the achievements of each, years of songwriting experience showing the band is adept at many styles. Energetic and exuberant, the single suffers not for its lack of stylistic originality, while deliberately ambiguous lyrics hide behind a confident, Bono-inspired vocal.
�Is it different now? Or did Jesus get it right? Or is the devil behind the light?�
Opening track Angels/Losing/Sleep
is the best song the album, simply put. It opens with light acoustic guitar and softly sung vocals before the band kicks in for a track which could almost be an outtake from Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch
save for the rather direct politically-motivated lyrics. Conventional wisdom would declare that a rock song featuring the lyric �Looks like the war was in your head not your heart�
to be an attack on that oppressor of arabs and middle-class whites alike, George W. Bush, however in this case one can�t be sure. Given the context of the album, it�s hard to say who�s the subject.
Will The Future Blames Us
may provide an answer as it seems to confirm that Raine has declared all-out war against question marks. Punctuative militancy aside, it is in a frankly personal lyric that Raine expresses first frustration with, presumably, his time traveling with War Child and then resignation to his ultimate failure. The chorus simply laments, �I don�t ask why anymore.�
Musically, the song is noticeably improved for Jeremy Taggart�s excited drumming which seems to indicate, finally, that the drummer has become a fully contributing member of the band after his near invisibility on the previous album.
seems to be another personal account of his adventures, documenting, perhaps, troubles with his wife as he pleads, �Don�t take my picture down/Don�t erase everything that we had � Please pick up the phone.�
Again, what is most notable, aside from the beautiful vocal, is Taggart�s drumming which sounds like that of a different drummer to the one credited on Gravity
My first real experience of Our Lady Peace was in the summer of 2003 when I saw the band perform a short set at a state fair. One of the two �new� songs they tried out was Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
. Introduced as a musical rant against those two-faced people we all have in our lives, the song utilises wartime imagery (spot a theme?) to symbolise a broken friendship, �This is war � The time has come to drop the bomb on all the pain that you�ve been causing.�
Love And Trust
are stark expressions of the hopelessness Raine feels as he seeks a solution to the problems of the world. The former is driven by a pounding rhythm section and takes the form of a son speaking to his parents, �This 21st Century is a mess � The crazy world has lost its mind and it�s out fault.�
The latter features Raine�s inner voice, telling him, �Boy/You�ll be running but can�t get anywhere/Don�t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.�
Delay-soaked guitars abound on this track which will inevitably draw comparisons with U2.
and Walking In Circles
are musically pleasing, though lyrically ordinary. The latter, in particular, is worthy of note as it has potential to become a next single. Again echoing the Killers and their ilk, the track simply reiterates Maida�s frustration with his situation.
is a desperate love song in which Raine expresses his willingness to die for his wife. The lyrics are stark, simple and moving, �No-one will ever compare/Ever be better than you.�
The song also features the lyric from which the album title is derived, Everyone�s losing their minds/Healthy in paranoid times.� World On A String
sounds like �Annie�s� long-lost cousin, though the lyrics are personal, �When I�m down on my knees/And it hurts to believe/I�m bleeding/You�ll bring me back to life.�
What separates Healthy In Paranoid Times
from the glut of self-righteous stadium-rock albums that have been released this past year? Simply, Raine Maida does. The bourgeois arrogance which typifies the �Make Poverty History� campaign of Bono, Geldof, Martin & Co. doesn�t sit here. Maida knows that no amount of wristbands sold will help solve the world�s problems, be they hunger or war. Maida expresses terribly human emotions, like anger and hate, which separates him from the largely cold campaign waged by the Live8 organisers. Perhaps as importantly, Maida doesn�t have to seek out other bands in order to put on a good show. Our Lady Peace aren�t re-inventing the wheel with their latest effort, but they�re not re-inventing better, and with more purpose, than any other band on the scene at the moment.
And so, the haunting Al Genina (Leave The Light On)
is a fitting way to finish the album. The anger and frustration, the desperation which pervades throughout the album resolves itself, at least to an extent. The song features Raine�s best vocal on the album which is appropriate as the song is the most personal to be found here.
"Al Genina (Leave The Light On)"
Fell asleep today
Woke up far away
A place I didn't know
A woman smiled at me
She said, welcome to my home
Life is different here she says it's not
Camouflage with gold
And hey leave the light on for me
And hey leave the light on for me, yeah
Might not make it home
I can't leave here tonight
Not afraid to live
Not afraid to die
And hey, leave a light on for me
And hey, leave a light on for me