Be careful what you wish for. In the early days, OLP said that the worst thing that could happen to them was fame. They’ve come close a few times. 1997’s ‘Clumsy‘ caught a post grunge wave of popularity, and ‘Spiritual Machines’ (2000) awoke the art rock artist in us all. But fame is something they’ve managed to avoid so far.
The new album, ‘Curve’ might be the one to rescue them from obscurity. 4 reasons to be cheerful : 1. It is awash with Raine Maida’s achingly articulate lyrics. 2. New geetar man, Steve Mazur is all over this album like, well, like a guitarist full of ability and invention. 3. The album’s inspiration – boxer George Chuvallo’s philosophy of life – is a universal one, and not too heavy handed…” when you’re on-stage, you’re naked up there the same way a boxer is in a fight. It’s either going to knock you down or make you stronger“. 4. It contains some of the best songs the band have recorded.
It also marks a return to a more challenging sound, post industrial yet much more organic than, say, ’Gravity’ (2002) and is less politically charged than ’Healthy In Paranoid Times’ (2005). The album was produced by Rick Rubin associate, Jason Lader. He’s taken Mazur’s distorted, pleasingly overblown guitar textures and the relentlessly rushing rhythms of the Taggart/ Coutts axis to create a densely constructed bunch of noise, and it works a treat. ‘Allowance’, ‘Heavyweight’ and ‘As Fast As You Can‘, tracks with luminous melodies, glide gracefully through this musical murk. Grubby, gilded songs with their eyes on the stars.
Maida has now cultivated a more cultured singing voice. Gone is the heavily mannered, frenzied falsetto of yore. His vocals still burn with intensity, but are intent now on making a more conventional emotional connection than in the past. His lyrics, compelling, alternately graphic and elliptic carry a candid weight of emotion, where the meaning may not always make direct, vigorous sense, but the sentiment is clear.
‘Window Seat’ and ‘Fire In The Henhouse’ are such songs, hinting provocatively, tantalisingly at a meaning that seems frighteningly important, but remains just out of reach.
Last track ‘Mettle’ has snippets of Chuvalo speaking. Chuvalo was Canadian Heavyweight boxing champion and is something of a legend in his native land. He fought all the greats, including Ali twice and Frazier once, going the distance on each occasion. He has endured many personal tragedies, but lives his life like an example to us all. An inspirational man indeed.