The creative circumstances surrounding Our Lady Peace and their fifth studio album, Gravity, were tumultuous to say the least. Longtime guitarist Mike Turner was having creative differences with lead singer and band leader Raine Maida, and although he appears on nearly half of the songs on this record, Turner would eventually be replaced by Steve Mazur by the time the album was released. Maida was quoted in interviews by saying, “I don’t know if Mike was born to be a guitar player. The studio was a tough place for him and we were working too hard to make up for it – we felt like we were cheating ourselves. Four albums is way too fucking long to put up with that. I’m sure he’ll do great things, just not with six-stringed instruments.” Out of this conflict, however, would come some of the band’s best material since their landmark Clumsy record. Gravity was front-loaded with superb singles like “Somewhere Out There,” where the lyrics in the chorus inspired the record title, and crowd favorite, “Innocent.” By the time the promotional cycle had ended, Gravity would go on to sell over half a million copies in the U.S. alone.
The album starts off with a brooding, heavier-tinged guitar chord in “All For You,” where Maida bellows the opening lines, “A suburban man at my door / But I don’t think I’ll let him in / He wants discipline, discipline / Control over the way I live / He wants the best for me / An old-school philosophy / So I can’t turn my back on him / He’d buy me anything / But I just need a friend.” The sound the band went for with producer Bob Rock was a bit more mainstream, and fit well with most of the Alt Rock going on during this part of the 00’s. While most critics ultimately panned this direction that Our Lady Peace went for on songs like this opener, there’s still plenty to enjoy on Gravity.
”Do You Like It” prominently features Maida’s strong vocals as he sings on the powerful chorus, “I don’t wanna be a puppet for you / Don’t wanna bite the hand that’s feeding / I don’t wanna be a sucker for you, oh yes you / I hate myself for begging / I hate myself for staying / I hate myself for listening to…you” It’s a solid enough song in a set that features the majority of its best material in front half. “Somewhere Out There” follows and it’s easy to see why the song did so well 20 years ago; it’s got a great build up, an anthemic and hooky chorus, and plenty of lyrical imagery about “Falling back to me, defying gravity” that Incubus did so well on their Make Yourself and Morning View albums.
Other tracks like the second single, “Innocent” initially reminded me of the P.O.D. song “Youth of the Nation,” with the similar-sounding “we are, we are” parts, yet I’d definitely prefer OLP’s take on the “style” over the former. What detracted a bit from the delivery of Gravity was the production of Bob Rock trying to mold the band into a more marketable sound, and songs like these sound a bit forced after some time to reflect on them. “Made of Steel” is another song that fits into this category, as its delivery is ultimately flat and forgettable. The song was even released as the final single from the record, and yet it never charted, which tells you something after the massive success of “Innocent” and “Somewhere Out There.”
The back half opens with the quieter, brooding and slow-building “Not Enough” which occasionally features memorable lyrics like, “When they say you’re not that strong / You’re not that weak / It’s not your fault / And when you climb / Up to your hill / Up to your place / I hope you’re well.” Things never get off on the right foot with “Sell My Soul,” and “Sorry,” with its needed up-beat tempo, is the best hope of saving grace in the back half of tracks that kind of run out of steam by the time they reach the finish line. “Bring Back the Sun” is a well-crafted ballad, but seems kind of dull after repeated listens. “A Story About a Girl” ends the set on the right footing and leaves the audience with an overall favorable listening experience.
Overall, I remembered liking this record a lot more when it came out, and at times I thought it was their second best, nipping at the heels of Clumsy. But after further review, it seems like this record that came out of such conflict ultimately feels a bit unrealized, even with its lofty goals. The singles are great, but it’s really a shame of a missed opportunity that the songs that surround them could’ve been more fleshed out.