Ever since 1997’s Clumsy garnered both fans and grimaces with Raine Maida’s piercing vocals, the Canadian band Our Lady Peace have established themselves as one of the few constants in an ever-transient alterna-rock world. Their newest release maintains their foothold. There’s no shortage of the screeching vocals, the heavy grunge-pop riffs, and that delicate mix of hope and self-loathing that characterized the previous four OLP albums.
Still, Gravity has smoothed out some of the band’s more endearing edges, trading Maida’s characteristic yelp for more-calculated emoting and shelving the more inventive and varied sonic attack of last year’s Spiritual Machines for strict adherence to modern-rock formula. Although the opening tracks — "Do You Like It" and "Innocent" — get the disc off to a promising start by wrapping bitterness and optimism in tight and tidy bundles of energetic guitar riffery, Gravity quickly loses its way. The first single, "Somewhere Out There," suggests Fuel’s dirty rock ballad "Hemorrhage" as it conveys lost love with hackneyed astral imagery. And the mediocre "Made of Steel" is the start of a brooding laundry list of grievances buoyed by frenzied choruses. Although Tool-like heavy guitar work distinguishes "Sell My Soul" and "Sorry" generates enough uplifting energy to fill an arena, the only real departure is the tiresome "Bring Back the Sun," with its blandly subdued mix of acoustic guitar and electric piano. OLP have traded polish for progress, and that makes Gravity their most refined and least refreshing album to date.