Our Lady Peace - Curve
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Record Label: Warner Music/Entertainment One Music
It is difficult to approach an album such as Curve. At least it is for me. My high school years pre-getting absorbed in punk and post-hardcore were spent listening to songs on the radio and watching a lot of VH1 on Saturday mornings. While I enjoyed a number of bands from said era, Our Lady Peace was one of the first I would be inclined to say I went head over heels for. There was, and always has been, something different about this band that brought me back to them through the years. And even as my attention to them waned through my college years, I still took time to revisit them as they put out new records – albeit with admittedly less enthusiasm post-Gravity. Yet, upon hearing Curve’s first single “Heavyweight”, it almost seemed like my love for the band was rekindled in a way. This is more or less a reflection of Curve as a whole though, as the band’s love for grooving rhythms and tight melodies shine bright as Raine Maida and company take us through what they’ve said to be their most experimental record yet.
That’s a bold statement considering the conceptual nature of Spiritual Machines and the often intergalactic nature of their earlier works. Yet as much as one might contest the idea, Curve makes good on it for the most part. The startup humming of opener “Allowance” becomes less foreign as it seeps in and out of your ears throughout the mid-tempo stroll of a track. Maida’s quirky croon helps push the track forward into the huge chorus-like bursts of sound. However, jam-sesh nature of the verses is what makes this opener a solid one and tough to forget. “Heavyweight” follows a very similar mixture, adding a grooving bass and guitar line backed by funky, yet confident drumming that is, at least to my ears, rather reminiscent of the vibes the band gave off on Spiritual Machines. “Find Our Way” does a similar number, although the rocking, off-kilter introduction gets shed pretty quickly for drums and vocals, tied up by nearly-looping guitar melodies.
“If This Is It” sparks a bit of a shift in the mood of the album though. Sparse and steeped in melody, tracks such as this, as well as “Will Someday Change” and “Mettle”, bring a lush, surreal feeling to the album that while not completely new to the band’s sonic approach does bring a breath a fresh air to the groove-heavy front half of the record. “Mettle” in particular brings a somber mood to finish us off, looping another simple guitar melody with Spiritual Machine-like samples and Maida’s distorted croon. It comes across as a last-chance outpouring of emotion without turning into the sort of bombastic ballad often expected of modern rock album closers. The shift into sparser, more melodic territory doesn't completely abandon the rhythmic tendencies of earlier tracks though. “Rabbit” throws a jazzy drum pattern behind gorgeous guitars, all without really kicking it into full gear for a huge passage. It is a characteristic that seems to pop up here and there on Curve, though it doesn’t seem like too much of a downer to really harp on them about.
I would also contest that while Maida’s voice is just as good as it has always been in texture and sound, he seems a bit restrained at points on this record. Sure, it is a nice change to not hear his upper register soar in every track, but it seems as almost this vibe throughout the record doesn’t quite allow him to do that as much. The album also is arguably not as instantly memorable as the band’s work of the past, but that lends itself more to the band’s much more varied approach to the instrumentation and songwriting on this album.
The thing that is easy enough to take away from Curve though is Our Lady Peace’s ability to transcend the arena rock aura that they sometimes get lumped into. Sure, they’ve been known for writing some huge ballads and some colossal melodies in the past, but perhaps in a personal epiphany, the beauty of Curve comes not from factory-bred rock numbers or by-the-numbers ballads. It is in a band’s confidence not only in themselves to branch towards something much more organic – the ability for the band to submerge us in whatever ocean they choose musically. Curve may not sell millions of records in the United States, and it may not return Our Lady Peace to the stardom they had in the days of Clumsy. But it has reminded me why I loved a band like this in the first place – because they weren’t afraid to try anything.
Good review, probably would've ended up in the high 80's range if I were rating it. I like it more and more each time I listen to in.
I feel as if this is the first time that Steve Mazur has really stepped up into the lead guitarist's role since he joined the band. Comparing this album with Gravity and Burn Burn, the guitars are much more melodic and he doesn't seem content to just play power chords anymore, which I like. In particular, the solo on "Heavyweight" is one of my favorite 10 seconds of music I've heard in a long time.