Decade of last.fm scrobbling countdown:
41. Our Lady Peace (765 plays)
Top track (30 plays): Angels Losing Sleep, from Healthy in Paranoid Times (2005)
We are all entitled to a guilty pleasure or two. I would humor calling Our Lady Peace mine, but only if we agree to restrict their cause for lameness to the lyrics. Their popularity, especially as those “Canadian softies” emerging amidst much heavier U.S. trends, overshadows the fact that they are absolutely amazing. Raine Maida’s voice is capable of making anything sound great, and capable of making me not give a shit about singing a falsetto at the top of my lungs at traffic lights with my windows down. Even as I was signing the final divorce papers with my radio in the late 90s and letting my affair with Napster and heavy metal be known, I was probably listening to 1999’s Happiness…is Not a Fish That You Can Catch more than any other album on the market. I’ve definitely listened to it more than most other 1990s albums–even the grunge greats–in my more informed years to follow.
How people have experienced OLP over the years probably varies drastically depending on where you’re from. The late 1990s and early 2000s marked the final days of musical segregation, with Americans barely having a clue who Radiohead, Blur, and Muse were. (Didn’t one of them do that “woo-hoo” song?) The U.S. and Canada were a bit more in sync, but Our Lady Peace was definitely not the overhyped megaband down here that my Canadian friends recall. They were just “that band that did Clumsy and Superman’s Dead”. The singles on Happiness received minimal air time, and the only song since that I’ve really heard extensively here was “Somewhere Out There” (Gravity, 2002). (I can’t honestly speak for their last three albums of course. Maybe “Angels Losing Sleep” was huge–it deserves to be–but I hadn’t listened to mainstream radio in years by then.) My main point here is that, while OLP might have been played to the point of annoyance in Canada, down here they were presented modestly enough to not face serious media pollution. I had a better opportunity to engage them by choice–and choose which songs I liked best.
Our Lady Peace are a band that has definitely catered to the radio single. Even on their first album, Naveed (1994), a few tracks stood out as decisively more catchy than the status quo. Their albums by and large are never perfect; there are plenty of second-rate tracks in their discography. What they have really accomplished throughout their career is a consistency of top-notch quality among the handful of main focus tracks they produce for a given album. They are a band better set to a playlist, and even as recently as Burn Burn in 2009 they’ve pumped out new material worthy of that mix. (“Signs of Life”, “Paper Moon”–featured above) Happiness…is Not a Fish That You Can Catch remains, I think, their best album by far, because it is the only one for which I can safely say there are no downer tracks. Every song on that album could be a single. But I really do enjoy the full discography, and I have a tendency to queue it up from start to finish when I’ve got a long project to work on at home. Something about the more ho-hum tracks projects a sort of humility on the big picture–the sense that these guys are down to earth, not supernaturally brilliant in the sense of contemporaries like Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. Their lyrics are frequently incredibly lame, but that’s the only major fault I hear in a band that was perhaps a bit too successful to be appreciated for their real worth.
Our Lady Peace: a guilty pleasure? Maybe, but I’ll keep singing along.