As the first wave of popular grunge began to decline in 1994, accelerated by the suicide of its "Moses," Kurt Cobain, the scene sought desperately to re-invent itself and re-coup its numbers; a conservative revolution of sorts. Just like Guns N' Roses and their ilk shook up the '80s pop-metal scene while leaving its foundations surely in root, it became inevitable that the same must happen for the already decaying Seattle rock scene, now a nationwide and worldwide movement. In the vaguely detectable vacuum that formed emerged a new generation of alt. rock bands, less coarse and easier on the ear than their Seattle predecessors, though no more or less appealing to the record-buying masses. Bands like Bush and (later) Silverchair led the charge from overseas, combining the aggressive dirty guitar riffs and distinctive vocal style of Nirvana and their more punk-oriented contemporaries with the hard rock sensibilities which served the '80s bands grunge replaced so well.
One scene stagnates; a slightly altered one takes its place. Fittingly, it was a band made up of ex-Nirvana members, Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters, which launched "post-grunge"- the group's self-titled record a mix of heavy rock and punk with a saleable melodic root. Still, inevitabilities notwithstanding, few could have predicted the massive success of the debut album by Torontonian post-grunge outfit Our Lady Peace. The record, titled Naveed
, took everybody by surprise when it hit the ground running in November 1994, achieving platinum, and then multi-platinum, status within a matter of months. Theirs was a sound not too far removed from their already mentioned post-grunge peers; that is to say they had a foot rooted very firmly in the recent past, yet they had a melodic classic rock core which harks back to the late '60s and early '70s.
At a modest forty-seven minutes across eleven tracks, Naveed
is a fairly even split of radio-oriented pop-rock tracks and progressive alternative, each song technically and harmonically advanced, intricately arranged yet not so subtle as to lose the capacity to connect. Our Lady Peace wear their influences on their sleeves: three of grunge's big names loom large on the album- the atmospheric-yet aggressive rock tracks recall Soundgarden; drums and vocals often ape their contemporaries from the Smashing Pumpkins; while largest of all looms the shadow of Pearl Jam, from whose guitarists Mike Turner owes much. Still, the band reaches further for its pop sensibilities- melodic structure echoes at various points Led Zeppelin and the Beatles (later years would see covers of 'Tomorrow Never Knows,' 'If I Fell' and 'Imagine').
In order to get a handle on Naveed
and Our Lady Peace, the first port of call has to be the erratic vocal stylings of Raine Maida. Truly unrivalled in his chosen field, Maida is the first thing everybody notes about the band, his shrill falsetto typically being employed liberally throughout any given song. It, perhaps, doesn't come as an awfully big surprise that Maida cites fellow vocal acrobats Sinéad O'Connor and Björk as major influences- both have been charged with over-indulgence and a distinct lack of tact as regards the use of their considerable vocal talents. Armed with a higher register than a man really should possess (despite his low speaking voice), Maida yelps and huffs his way through explosive album-opener 'The Birdman,' dominating a song he really has no right to, given the exquisite twin performances of Turner and drummer Jeremy Taggart.
Taggart is the real driving force beneath the stormy exterior, the key link in a chain of competing musical egos. Taggart comes from a jazz background (his parents were jazz musicians) but the ghost of John Bonham has an equally impressive presence, reflected in his heavy-hitting abrasive beats on songs such as �Starseed� and 'The Birdman,' while his more refined influences make themselves known on 'Denied,' which sees the bespectacled drummer switch between tabla and a regular drumset. His tactful, rolling rhythms in the bridge to 'Naveed' add to the section's tension. His partner on bass, Chris Eacrett, left soon after the release of the album but it's hard to see how 'Naveed' would sound without his unsettling repeated bass-line, and his slow, atmospheric notes on 'Denied' create an extra dimension of tension before the chorus explosion.
The architect of the explosion is, of course, Mike Turner, the only Michael in the band not to change his name to �Raine.� His is the gloomy, distortion-heavy guitar that laces the album; Mike's distortion-pedal gets a healthy workout through those forty-seven minutes, as the clean (delay-aided) picked chords of 'Is It Safe?,' 'Denied' and 'Julia' give way to heavy, chugging chorus riffs and screaming guitar solos. Elsewhere he maintains the quiet-verse, loud-chorus dynamic in spite of his singer's over-enthusiasm, ensuring that each chorus arrives on cue with the desired impact. His funky riffs on 'Supersatellite' help distinguish the track from the rest of the album, making it easily the most upbeat track in the collection.
While standout tracks are hard to pick out, due to the volume of technically impressive and melodically appealing material on offer, singles are usually a prime indicator of the quality of an album, and 'Naveed' isn't short of either singles or quality. Three singles were released from the album- 'The Birdman' achieved modest success upon release, though it probably suffered for its excessive length (over five minutes) and Maida's most intense vocal performance. However, the anthemic chorus, which sees the guitar riff turned on its head halfway through to create a most disorienting atmosphere, makes it clear why it was chosen for release. 'Naveed' is equally long but less likely to offend, with a more straightforward melodic structure and less �offensive� performances from Maida and Turner. 'Starseed' broke the band in the US, and it's easy to see why- the chorus was designed for the arena circuit, the type that'll stick to your ears like maple syrup and that sh
it never washes out. Less Pearl Jam than Mother Love Bone, the track's appeal is all the more apparent given its re-release to coincide with the Hollywood movie 'Armageddon' (The soundtrack also featured Raine's future wife, Chantal Kreviazuk).
Of the non-singles, there's just as much to be said; 'Hope' is the most satisfyingly uncomfortable listen you're likely to find, as the tense, bass-driven verses gradually build, creeping towards an almighty crescendo, whereupon we're informed "this woman [Hope] is gone," the seemingly senile/insane subjects name bitterly appropriate for the occasion. 'Julia,' on the other hand, is a fierce and angry rock song directed at Raine's typically complex subject. 'Neon Crossing' is screaming out for a techno remix, while 'Under Zenith' provides more evidence of the band's considerable skill and technical proficiency.
Each track on 'Naveed,' in truth, is worth as much as the next- the songs aren�t necessarily bound to one another but there�s a certain coherence to be found in the fluctuating tempo and changing styles- call it coherence in incoherence- and no one track is significantly worse than the rest to render it unnecessary. As an album, 'Naveed' has been somewhat lost with the success of its successors, hampered by its sparsity of recognised standout tracks, but it's a snapshot of one of the decade�s most talented mainstream bands at a time when they had the creative freedom to make an album so unique yet so easily reconcilable with the popular music of the time. The band would wait three years before following up the album- by the time 'Clumsy' was released the grunge scene had disappeared and Our Lady Peace had made a very different alternative rock record. 'Naveed' is a one-of-a-kind record and, luckily, Our Lady Peace never tried to re-create it.