When Peace emerged from the B-Town scene in 2012, they were four straggly young-lings with a penchant for baggy indie tunes that were rough around the edges that fed off 80’s/90’s trailblazers The Stone Roses, Oasis and The Charlatans fused with the latter day indie of Foals and Kasabian. Their 2013 Debut LP, ‘In Love’ was awash with sunny nuances, drenched in vitamin D, projecting a giddy euphoria from Birmingham’s grey vistas. It’s now 2015, sophomore album ‘Happy People’ is ready to go and the quartet are still a ragtag, unkempt gang harbouring a fondness for a jaunty indie song – but this time around, the bubbling optimism of yore is diluted by a world weary melancholy. Not quite a coming of age nor an album of songs dedicated to the big bad world we live in but a loss of buoyancy in mood is evident on Happy People.
With a greater exposure to the wider world it’s no wonder Peace are a touch more reflective – ‘Money’ finds the band questioning how the demon dollar dictates and consumes all it touches, ‘Gen Strange’, despite it’s upbeat, rubbery refrain, has vocalist Harry Koisser painting pictures of newsreaders documenting terror and unrest on our TV screens, and even, on the positively titled eponymous track, Koisser appears forlorn “where did all the happy people go?” as a subdued tropical lilt builds to something on the verge of widescreen anthemia. Peace haven’t gone fully mope-fest on us quite yet, ‘Lost On Me’ is a disco flecked stomper with heart-shaped pupils, with a loved up Koisser announcing “you’re chemically/so heavenly”. Opening ditty, ‘O You’ fidgets on a laboured calypso bounce and works like as a manifesto for what lies ahead “and I’m just trying to change the world that ya live in/O You/trying to make it better for ya children” – showing Peace’s hope for…errr…peace isn’t jaded quite yet. The cynics amongst us might sniff at someone trying to “change the world” but hey why crush youthful exuberance?
Happy People can be seen as a brave record, not in an obvious way but on tracks ‘I’m A Girl’ and ‘Perfect Skin’ the Brummie contingent chronicle image insecurities and how they don’t fit into the uber-macho template of the alpha males. Koisser and Co are an androgynous rabble – the gorky offspring of Brett Anderson, Nicky Wire and Jarvis Cocker – so, it’s refreshing to hear them vocalise the stigma, grief and anxieties of being different.
Sonically and lyrically, Happy People has the occasional misstep, certain bits of wordplay clunk with an awkwardness and the quartet foray into the pop world too much at times – the rougher edges from the ‘California Daze EP’-era have been disappointingly smoothed off. Regardless of the introduction of orchestral flourishes here and there, there’s not much in the way of musical progression on the outfit’s second effort.
“I wanted it to sound like a lollipop that’d been dropped on the floor and had bits of dust and hair on it” is how Koisser has summarised Happy People whilst being interviewed by DIY – which is a fair summation. Next time around chaps, leave that piece of candy on the floor for a bit longer – Peace sound better the grimier they are.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams