Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Lady Peace

Okay, so I am a little behind on this one... but I have a good reason for that!  Last week, I had to pick an artist for the letter O, and I (of course) opted for the Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace.  Then, when I looked up their Wikipedia page, I found out that their new album came out the very next day!!  I then waited to get a copy and decided to listen to it over and over again all last week... so my blogue post here got delayed a few days later than I was hoping, because I really wanted to soak in the new album.

Anyways, I first heard OLP years back in 1996 when I borrowed (stole) a copy of their first album Naveed from a friend. (He was staying on the floor of my bedroom at the time, so it was fair game!)


I listened that album practically non-stop over the next year, until their next album Clumsy came out, gaining them some US radio airplay.  It was an incredible album stylistically, and was a bit less heavy and more jangly than their first... although I still personally prefer Naveed.


The style of their second album matured and carried over into an even better album (in my opinion) called Happiness... Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch.  I consider this one to be highly over-looked, as even fans of the band tend to easily forget that it even existed until reminded.


The next year, the band released a form of concept album based around and named after the Ray Kurzweil book "The Age of Spiritual Machines", about artificial intelligence and its effects on the human condition.  Worked in throughout the album are audio clips of spoken dialogue, submitted by Kurzweil himself.  Spiritual Machines is by far my favourite OLP album and is arguably their best work to date.  (I think the band even agrees with me on that one.)

"In Repair"

After Spiritual Machines, the band lost its lead guitar player, changed producers, and essentially began a new era... Unfortunately, most of this new era kinda sucked.  The next three(3) albums were incredibly lacking in creativity, especially when compared to the four(4) that came before it.

The first came in the form of Gravity, which really just sounded like every other band on the radio at the time.  Sure, they were finding their footing again with a new guitar player, but the songs were standard and conventional, and it really is just my least favourite of the whole bunch.  Some of it even just sounds like Nickelback to me... (and if you don't think that's an insult, then you don't deserve to live.)  There was however one stand-out song that I consider strong enough to have been from the "Happiness..." era: (ie, the following video)


The next two albums, Healthy In Paranoid Times and Burn Burn, were far better than Gravity, but had the misfortune of being permeated by what I call "power chord stadium rock anthems."

"All You Did Was Save My Life"

These songs were still far better and more typical of the band than most everything off Gravity.  Most of it showed a strong, yet somewhat lacking, attempt to return to their classic sound, and there were even some really unique gems thrown into the mix here and there.

"Wipe That Smile Off Your Face"

...and now we come to the newest album, Curve.  After maybe a good twenty(20) or so listens, I have to say that I really, really like this album.  It was inspired by a tour they did a couple years back, in which they performed both their Clumsy and Spiritual Machines albums in their entirety.  I guess it reminded the band of how they used to not only sound, but write music... and the outcome of that is magnificent.

"Fire In The Henhouse"

Now, I really hope they stick with this current kick they're on, looking back at their older work and being inspired by it without copying it completely.  Apparently their producer also had a hand in their direction by asking "why don't you make a record that you would listen to?" and I someday would like to personally thank that man, as a long-time Our Lady Peace fan, for giving them that advice.

"Window Seat"

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Model Army

Whoever said that political music can't also be romantic had never heard of New Model Army.  A post-punk band from England, NMA make gorgeous songs about society and politics, incorporating lush instrumentation and poetic lyrics.


Years ago, sometime in 1998-99 when the Chumbawamba mailing list was still active and buzzing with discussions about music and political strife, someone from the fan base took it upon themselves to send me Strange Brotherhood, the new CD by New Model Army.  I honestly don't remember who sent it to me, but I was happy to receive new music and am forever grateful that they introduced me to NMA.

"Big Blue"

I eventually loaned that disc to a friend... it came back so scratched and chipped that it was unplayable.  I no longer lend out CD's because of this one incident.  It being an import, it took me a while to find a new copy of the album, but I was able to pick up an older live album from Tower Records.  This band sounds like an amazing live band.

"Vagabonds" (Live)

Eventually, I was able to collect pretty much all of their albums, including the previously destroyed album.  Their earliest stuff is typical post-punk rock, but still quite outstanding.


I've noticed their more recent music (from Strange Brotherhood on) has been greatly influenced by artists like Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave.  This is far from a bad thing and only makes me like them more.

"Someone Like Jesus"

Really, I have only been impressed by NMA, and I can't think of a single bit of their music I don't enjoy.  I find it rather alarming that such a great band that's been around for so long (and one that's rather huge throughout all of Europe) is so unknown here in the United States.  That needs to be rectified.

"No Pain" (Live)

Well, that's really about all I have to say about New Model Army.  I suggest everyone who enjoyed what they've heard here search out more.  You won't be disappointed, I can assure you that.

"One of The Chosen"

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Mahavishnu Orchestra

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I love King Crimson, one of the first and foremost progressive-rock, jazz-fusion bands.  Now King Crimson may not actually be very well-known, but their sister band The Mahavishnu Orchestra is known even less.  Come to think of it though, I actually heard of them first... A reference was made in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a week or so later, I stumbled upon a record in a local shop.  It was my first real taste of jazz-fusion, and I was immediately hooked.

"Birds of Fire"

Formed in 1971 (and then again in 1984), The Mahavishnu Orchestra was created and fronted by John McLaughlin, who was basically their version of Robert Fripp. (Which means nothing to those of you who know nothing about King Crimson, but I digress...)  The band went through many line-up changes as well as a random break-up/re-form, and McLaughlin was (as far as I know) the only member who remained through every variation.

"Meeting of The Spirits"

I think "creative" is an understatement when referring to this band.  Many times, each instrumentalist is playing something different than the rest and at a drastically different time signature.  Somehow, it always melds together perfectly into a marvelous piece of music... and one that never sounds awkward or causes a headache.


I don't think there's all that much more that I can say about The Mahavishnu Orchestra, as the music really speaks for itself.  And there's no middle ground with them either. You love it or you don't... and I love it.