Forging The Future of Rock
Story by Karen Tinsley
The year is 1995. Crop tops, tartan kilt mini-skirts, platform shoes, animal prints, faux fur, velvet and denim are all the rage.
Forrest Gump wins the Best Picture Oscar. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opens in Cleveland, Ohio. Blue M&Ms become a thing.
There is no Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Pinterest. No Reddit, Tumblr, Wikipedia, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Nevertheless, the dot-com boom has officially begun.
For Canadian band Our Lady Peace (OLP), the boom also officially begins when their inaugural LP Naveed debuts across North America.
The Mark Van Doren poem, “Our Lady Peace” inspired the band’s moniker, and it causes a few misunderstandings over the years: they are once hassled at the border because a customs officer thinks their name disrespects the Virgin Mary. Raine Maid, the bands singer and lead song writer also receives mail addressed to “Our Lady Peace Memorial Gardens.”
The single “Starseed” brings the band its first taste of so-called ‘overnight success’, going quadruple platinum in Canada and achieving Top 40 status in the US. The rock music world proclaims OLP “passionate, honest and empathetic.”
“Starseed” also brings the band onto the radar of Led Zeppelin rock icon Robert Plant. OLP bass player Duncan Coutts recalls, “Before we knew it, we were opening in Chicago for Plant and Jimmy Page. Then we went on to tour the world, opening for Van Halen, the Goo Goo Dolls, Alanis Morrisette and the Rolling Stones.”
In 1997, “Superman’s Dead” (from sophomore album Clumsy) debuts at #1 in Canada.
OLP headlines its first tour in 1998.
Fast forward to 2023, this mega-hit spawning, global force rock music sensation is set to rock The Colosseum stage at Caesars Windsor on February 19.
When we asked Coutts if this is his first time performing in Windsor/Essex County, he laughs. “We’ve played this area several times before, but never a venue like The Colosseum. Believe it or not, our first Windsor performance was in 1997 at St. Joseph’s High School! In 1998 and 2000, we played Windsor Arena, which I believe is now defunct. In 2011 it was the Tecumseh Corn Fest, then in 2017 we did the Hogs for Hospice concert in Leamington. The Colosseum is the ideal venue for the Wonderful Future show and we’re looking forward to engaging with our fans.”
In 2000, OLP recorded and released Spiritual Machines, a concept album inspired by futurist Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. A surreal left turn for the band, Spiritual Machines found them turning their well-oiled working rock formula on its head. Characterized by Kurzweil’s spoken predictions, OLP’s trademark intelligent lyrics and anthemic guitar hooks, this LP quickly became a critic and fan favourite. It’s now considered one of Canada’s most influential alt-rock endeavors.
Spiritual Machines 2 heralds new predictions from Kurzweil, enhanced by technicolor grooves that mark both a return to form and an uplifting new musical era for OLP.
A welcome burst of sunshine, this is easily the band’s most accessible album.
Highlights include the energetic “Run” with its soulful chant, colourful horns and programmed backbeat, culminating in a grittier sound that redefines the OLP spirit. Always adept at setting a mood, Maida changes up his distinctive signature nasal falsetto to a monotone spoken-word style.
And speaking of moods, callbacks to Spiritual Machines (2000) abound. “Wish You Well” (a follow-up to “Are You Sad?”) is a happier song. Its chirpy refrain feels rooted in hope.
“Future Disease” is thought to be connected to “The Wonderful Future”, which closed out Spiritual Machines (2000). Both tracks share an upbeat funk feel, clearly demonstrating where the band was then and where they are today. The melancholy of 20 years ago has evolved into a futuristic, hook-filled celebration.
And speaking of hooks, “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” is perhaps the best piece of pure pop OLP has ever produced. From its breezy guitar riff to the Talking Heads-like bass line (created by Coutts and drummer Jason Pierce) to the earworm chorus to Nadya Tolokonnikova and Pussy Riot’s infectious harmonies, this is one irresistibly catchy tune with a universally relatable mantra.
Coutts reiterates, “Spiritual Machines 2 is both a return to form and the harbinger of a new musical era for us.”
The LP is intriguing, surprising and just really good.
In a time where social media has completely disrupted the music industry, Coutts says he and his OLP bandmates were early adopters. “But I would say it’s a lot more challenging for bands to develop ongoing relationships with their audiences. Today it’s 30-second TikTok clips or listening to one song on YouTube. Before the advent of internet and social media, you’d hear a song on the radio or see a video on TV and that was it. You’d go to a bricks and mortar music store, buy the LP, then go home and listen to it over and over until you learned every lyric inside out. I don’t want to sound like an old guy, but I think it’s a lot harder today to connect with audiences in the same kind of meaningful ways. And no question, attention spans sure have decreased exponentially.”
OLP has withstood the ever-evolving, wildly fickle and unpredictable music industry. Having cultivated and sustained a reputation as a forward-thinking band, their cerebral approach always seems to resonate.
Tickets can be purchased for the upcoming show by visiting caesarswindsor.com or ticketmaster.ca. The Caesars Windsor Box Office is open Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm and on Show Days from 12:00 noon to 10:00 pm. Guests must be at least 19 years of age to attend concerts and enter the casino.