It should come as no surprise that this latest attempt to resuscitate and reinvent the fledging market of sensitive angst rock should fail. Just as Live and Third Eye Blind have tried to make earnest complaining sexy and formidable, so too does Our Lady Peace step on the soap box with Happiness…is a Not a Fish That You Can Catch. And even if the message is redundant, and the speech a little waning, the aftertaste isn’t nearly as revolting as it could be.
Consider the lyrics, which are plaintive vehicles of self-conscious conformity and rejection, swimming in sincerity. When Raine Maida squeals (like Billy Corgan karaoke-style), you want to believe his plea, eat the words like you’ve been thinking them all along but couldn’t find the way to say them. His earnestness is so thick, you almost feel guilty if you don’t hum along and recite. But if you dig beneath the surface, you find a much flimsier foundation, which makes the honesty somewhat suspect and confusing. “Give them the finger/are you worried/that your thoughts are not quite clear?” from the first single and opening track “One Man’s Army,” and “I confess/everyone is overweight/and I’m obsessed/Talking is just masturbating/without the mess,” from “Happiness of the Fish,” make you wonder: are they suggesting we try to rectify the problem or escape it? And is it worth the effort?
Musically, you won’t find much here that isn’t reminiscent of the band’s second, and most commercially successful, album Clumsy, which spawned two Modern Rock Top 10 hits in “Superman’s Dead,” and the title track. Even with the slight Weezer-esque dabbling in “Is Anybody Home,” the set-up here is pretty standard and recycled: verse-chorus-verse, quiet-loud-quiet. It’s hard to imagine knowing this album well and not mismatching lyrics to choruses, because it’s all essentially “been there, done that.”
And though Happiness…is Not a Fish You Can Catch won’t make you miss the intrigue in other more inventive forms of music, it’s enough to make you think twice. Though the album suffocates in a dichotomy between intention and execution that it probably wanted to sidestep, Our Lady Peace have put together a decent, agreeable little record. Although it probably won’t spawn a vast new fanbase or much acceptance in the face of more interesting alternatives, Happiness…is Not a Fish That You Can Catch stands on its own an entreaty to find some joy in whining and the search for meaning.