Our Lady Peace, who attempted to inject a sense of earnestness into the burgeoning grunge movement in the mid-‘90s, have never really recovered from their best album, 1999’s Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch. Ostensibly an ersatz concept album about depression and alienation, “Happiness…” was a concise statement that benefited tremendously from frontman Raine Maida’s being reined in and focusing on songcraft rather than making statements. Flash forward six years and the Canadian band’s latest album, the painfully obvious Healthy In Paranoid Times (for those who may not pick up on the hey-look-at-me title, the liner notes make it crystal clear): Maida’s been touring the planet since the modest success of 2002’s Gravity and we’re in deep shit, man. The United States is mired in Iraq, there’s a lunatic in the White House, Third World countries are falling apart at an alarming rate—it’s a socially conscious rant you’ve heard elsewhere (wave hello to Chris Martin) but strangely, it feels less like raising awareness and more like hopping on the bandwagon. Spiritual cousins with the equally overwrought and off-track Live, Our Lady Peace tend to overindulge in histrionic hyperbole that smacks of pretension, particularly when considering song titles such as “Will The Future Blame Us,” “Wipe That Smile Off Your Face” (Get it? President Bush smirks!) or “Angels/Losing/Sleep.” Maida’s earnest (and occasionally nonsensical) lyrics blend well with the competent, unremarkable tunes—Our Lady Peace has never really struggled with making a listenable album (insofar as music is concerned), but the insistent, derivative single “Where Are You” isn’t the best introduction to the album. Taken as a whole, Healthy In Paranoid Times is a twitchy, aggravating record with far too much ambition and not nearly enough follow-through.
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