Our Lady Peace - Burn Burn
Record Label: Coalition Entertainment
Release Date: July 21, 2009
A strange thing happened last year when some douche on American Idol decided to cover an Our Lady Peace song. It wasn't strange in that someone chose to cover it (after all, the band does have some fans in the States). No, it was strange because it displayed just how every-man and "red state" the band could be when someone else took their song and brought it to the masses. You see, when Our Lady Peace first emerged they were very swiftly dumped into the "post-grunge" boom of the late '90s. And, sure, it was easy to see why at first. The band favored the soft-loud-soft-loud-repeat song structure on their early releases. However, unlike their post-grunge peers, they were able to speak to their listeners on a more mature and self-reflecting level. Kind of a Canadian U2 in a way, Our Lady Peace wrote songs that spoke about distinct human emotions and stories, yet were broad enough to appeal to each of their listeners in some kind of way. Whether it was through standing up for yourself ("One Man Army"), forgiveness ("Clumsy"), loss of innocence ("Superman's Dead"), abortion ("Stealing Babies") or, hell, even an entire record about how computers take over the world (that would be the excellent Spiritual Machines for those keeping score), the band was able to balance their ambition with delicate songcraft. They might not have found the perfect hook every time, but Raine Maida's distinct vocal ticks and semi-yodeling was enough to break them out to the pack. Of course, it helped that Mike Turner's guitar playing helped carry every song while Jeremy Tagart and Duncan Counts remained one of the most criminally underrated rhythm sections in rock 'n' roll.
Many fans will claim that the band was over once Turner left and good ol' Bob Rock took over. This, of course, wouldn't be the first time Bob Rock had come in and smoothed out a band with a strong core fanbase. However, though many fans will dispute it, Gravity actually maintained Our Lady Peace's ability to display human emotions over fierce hooks and interesting melodies. Even when they were left to discuss the simple ins and outs of a relationship gone wrong (save for "Innocent"), Raine Maida still sounded just as convincing when pining over his lost lover's purple hair as he did when he was sarcastically looking forward to the future. Healthy In Paranoid Times seemed to try to split the difference between the band's ambition and Rock's arena-rock sheen. It was a solid, if uneven, record (seriously, how annoying was this song?)
Nearly four years later, and after one member got some beat-poetry inspired rapping off his chest, the band began chipping away at big album #7. Foregoing a producer, the band decided to take complete control and produce the record themselves. At this stages in most band's career, it's hard to say if that's a wise decision or not. Sometimes, a band is super-confident and knows how to edit themselves. Othertimes, it doesn't allow an unbiased voice to tell the band "no." In this case, a little of both happened.
Burn Burn is by no means unlistenable. It still finds OLP reaching for grand statements while including subtle political and social statements. Lead single "All You Did Was Save My Life" does its absolute best to try to put a new spin on a cliche, but can't find an interesting melody. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that Maida's vocals sound flat and uninspired (imagine how much worse they would be without the Nickelback-like harmony). Time and time again the band finds interesting musical textures but can't seem to piece them together. This is best exemplified by "Refuge," which seems to build up to, well, just another build. The drums keep promising to explode but the production wipes the song flat.
It's not all bad news though. "Monkey Brains" creates a nice thump-rhythm which breaks down into a pretty melodic bridge followed by a return to the bounce. "White Flags" does it bests to bridge old-school U2 with modern-day Vh1 Top 20 countdown (and has the added bonus of being the best performance from Maida). "Paper Moon" might start with an awkward melody but employs an acceptable start-stop in order to best execute the "hey man, don't let them get you down" sentiment.
Still, it can be frustrating to watch a band that consistently melded ambitious ideas with exceptional songcraft. Anyone who knows me (or has read my posts around this site) knows that I try to fight the "it's not as good as the old stuff, maaaaan" argument as much as possible. However, I know when to admit defeat and with Burn Burn, I will. Call this a mid-career slump or call it time to hang it up. Whatever the case is, Our Lady Peace has never sounded as dull, directionless and insignificant as they do here.
while this album is shit, your criticisms of their earlier albums i dont think are accurate. the band had a unique sound in their early days, which is why they were actually relevant like 10 years ago.