There are many bands that make it big in their home country but never really seem to catch on to any great degree internationally. An example of this sort of thing that remains close to my heart are Canadian alt rockers Our Lady Peace
, a Toronto based foursome that emerged from the post-grunge scene in 1994 with their critically acclaimed debut Naveed
. Despite its massive popularity in Canada, it didn’t really catch on at the same level anywhere else with only marginal international success. Their sophomore effort, Clumsy
released in 1997, was even more successful yet, despite going platinum, the band still didn’t catch on in the States for any length of time. With their third studio effort, 1999’s Happiness…Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch
, or Happiness…
for short, they pleased both their fans and the critics with what could possibly be their most balanced, consistent album thus far, yet sales plummeted from the highs of Clumsy
. I don’t understand that myself as I love this album, but I digress.
OLP on this album are:
lead vocals/rhythm guitar
The album opener and first single One Man Army
shows the colors of this record right from the start, echoing both the melody of Clumsy
and the raw power of Naveed
. Opening with a strange, oscillating, siren-like sound, and the song then crescendos into a percussion and bass driven verse with Maida’s vocals once again high in the mix. Launching into the chorus with a bang, one hears once again the excellent use of stops that has become a staple of the OLP sound and the guitars come to life but not so much that they threaten to overwhelm the song. The following track Happiness & The Fish
demonstrates a similar dynamic but with a much more frantic edge with another excellent bass groove courtesy of Mr. Coutts.
The songs Potato Girl
work along the same quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic as the opening tracks yet can work as stand-alone tracks very well. We hear the first easily noticeable use of keyboards in Potato Girl with deep chords backing the verses. Though the song is very upbeat, the lyrics are very dark and reference death, loneliness, and paranoia. Blister begins with a soft keyboard and bass intro with Raine’s moody, almost forlorn vocals over top. Things pick up as the guitar comes in with some simple acoustic strumming. A very moody track which nevertheless seems oddly hopeful.
The second single,Is Anybody Home"
seems to be about searching for meaning in a society where nothing seems genuine and everyone seems to be obsessed with materialism. The question is left unanswered as he wonders if everyone feels so out of place or if there really is a “home” where everyone feels all right. The song begins quietly with muted vocals from Raine then explodes into the verse with a driving baseline, pounding drums, and a talk box melody that sticks in your head, only to drop off again in the chorus to softly sung vocals backed only by a subdued guitar. The following track Waited
slows the tempo down again with a soothing guitar intro by Turner over jazzy drumming by Taggart and simple but effective bass lines by Coutts. The chorus picks things up considerably with some of Maida’s better vocal work on the album. Worth noting are the guitar solos in songs like Is Anybody Home"
which surpass those on any other OLP album apart from, perhaps, Naveed
The second single, Thief
, is a very melancholy song about a girl Raine knew who died of brain cancer and dealing with having someone close to you with a terminal illness. The song is very subdued in the verses with Raine’s vocals really carrying the song over the quiet drumming of Taggart and soothing picking by Turner.
He expresses the helplessness in the lines:
“I can’t see that thief that lives inside of your head
But I can be some courage at the side of your bed
I don’t know what’s happening and I can’t pretend”
The next few tracks are solid but unspectacular numbers that represent the album well, but don’t really stand out. Lying Awake
features a pounding bass and excellent use of a talk box and various guitar effects by Turner, with the verses being extremely dark, almost menacing, both musically and lyrically. Annie
ups the tempo a bit and is very upbeat yet strange at the same time as Maida sings about a girl who is picked on by her peers and her state of mind and craving for revenge. This song was written just before the Columbine shootings and apparently when Raine saw the news on T.V. he said to the other band members “this is exactly what the song Annie is about.”
The tracks Consequences Of Laughing
and Stealing Babies
close the album out in strong fashion. The former features a growling guitar and booming bass during the verses in which Raine sings about a person getting out of rehab or a mental hospital and having to readjust to the real world. This song also features some of Raine’s strangest falsetto work as he emits a variety of high pitched, frantic screams that will undoubtedly cause many to skip this track. The album’s closing track, Stealing Babies
, is IMO one of the strongest on the album. It features some of the strongest and darkest lyrical moments on the album and creates a very tense, angry atmosphere until about three minutes in where there is a soft, jazzy interlude before the album fades out in a chaotic blend of distorted guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and many other strange effects.
If it seems I was not overly critical of this album, that’s because there are so few weak moments, if any. The only lack that I can see is that it lacks the couple extraordinary songs that can be found on the other albums. While it holds up remarkable well throughout, it lacks that one or two songs that really stand out.
Lyrics, Raine is at the top of his game
Bass work is excellent as is the percussion work by Taggart
Guitars and effects are varied, creative, and interesting, solos are excellent
Lack of tracks that stand out from the rest
Sometimes seems like the whole album sort of blends together
Well, that’s my first review done. It seems a little long but, meh. Any criticism is very much appreciated so long as it’s constructive. Thanks.