Our Lady Peace

1997 was a huge year for the Alternative Rock genre, and music fans in general, due to the vast number of great releases coming out. Since I missed the opportunity to write about Clumsy by Our Lady Peace at the 20 year mark, I figured it was about time to revisit this Alt Rock classic for its 25th Anniversary. Sure, everyone knows the major hits on this record like “Superman’s Dead,” “Automatic Flowers,” “4 AM,” and the slow-building title track, but the depth that Mike Turner, Jeremy Taggart, and lead vocalist Raine Maida went to into crafting the songs that surround these huge singles speaks to Our Lady Peace’s ability to live on in Alt Rock-lore. Many people don’t realize that Clumsy was the sophomore album from Our Lady Peace, with their debut coming in the form of Naveed. The music landscape had changed significantly since their debut released in the United States in 1995, and it was only a matter of time before this talented Canadian band would strike the right chord of the heartstrings of music listeners everywhere. Clumsy was produced by Arnold Lanni, who also gets writing credits on the album, and he does a great job in getting the best performances out of these young rockers to create a legendary, Alternative staple.

Clumsy opens with one of its most recognizable singles in “Superman’s Dead,” that slow builds over an acoustic guitar before exploding into a chorus of, “Why is Superman dead? / Why is it in my head? / Yeah, we’ll just laugh instead / You worry about the weather / Whether not you should hate,” that sees vocalist Raine Maida going from a falsetto approach to a more standard croon. The beginning of the track is often mistaken for Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” until the band really hits a groove throughout the single to really make their mark on the song. “Automatic Flowers” keeps the momentum flowing nicely, but sounds a little dated giving today’s better production elements in monitoring the soft-loud dynamic. Given how much has been written about the “CD Loudness Wars,” Clumsy could really benefit from a remastering to make some of these songs pop off the speakers. The band continues to forge ahead the best path forward with some great-sounding guitar solos that pair nicely with Maida’s falsetto vocals.

Keeping up with the album artwork and the theme of a “circus atmosphere,” “Carnival” follows as a mid-tempo ballad that finds Maida urging his listeners and fans to keep up the good fight as he sings, “You’re frustrated by the cracks / In the pavement / And every mother’s back / Once again / The carnival closed down / But if this world would ever turn around.” His optimism is contagious, and it paves the way for more great material that follows. “Big Dumb Rocket,” is a grunge-tinged song that doesn’t really sound as powerful as I remember it from hearing it in concert, and is another song that could use a refreshed mix to really explode out of the gate.

”4 AM” is one of the better ballads to come out of the 1997 era of Alternative Rock, and yet it often gets left off of lists of memorable songs from that time period. The beautifully constructed chorus of, “And if I don’t make it known that I’ve loved you all along / Just like sunny days that we ignore / Because we’re all dumb and jaded / And, and I hope to God I figure out what’s wrong,” sounds as majestic as the first time I heard it, and makes me want to see Our Lady Peace live again, just to re-experience the audience sing-a-long moment that this song invites. The crescendo towards the tail end of the track showcases the band’s ability to tell a story through their music and still keep their pop sensibilities intact.

”Shaking” almost feels like a filler track to my ears in retrospect, yet the storytelling of Maida’s lyrics still make for a compelling listening experience to pair with the abrasive guitar tones. The more tender vibes that came through on “4 AM” continue on the title track that really speaks to the strengths of Our Lady Peace’s songwriting: a slow building verse over an acoustic guitar that launches into the stratosphere of distorted guitars and beautifully constructed vocals on their chorus. “Clumsy” is no exception as Maida sings emphatically, “And maybe you should sleep / And maybe you just need / A friend as clumsy as you’ve been / There’s no one laughing / You will be safe in here, you will be safe in here.” It makes for another ear-pleasing moment with a beating heart behind each of the lyrics of holding on for better days ahead with the people that mean the most to you.

If Clumsy loses any momentum towards the tail end of the record, it’s hard to identify with solid up-tempo rockers like “Hello Oskar,” and the guitar-brazen “Let You Down.” Things continue to round the bend gracefully with “The Story of 100 Aisles,” and the album’s longest song in the closer “Car Crash.” Our Lady Peace’s musical experimentation on “Car Crash” in particular paved the way for their next steps forward on the sprawling Happiness…Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch, and led to several successful touring stints after Clumsy was released 25 years ago. One last note to close out this chapter of the band is to say how much better the band sounds on their Live compilation, that really brings out the full production value I was hoping to hear on this collection of songs. One thing is for sure, this band’s legacy is very much intact and their concerts remain a cathartic experience to behold.