Review: Peace – ‘Happy People’

peaceIf Birmingham quartet Peace’s supremely promising 2013 debut LP ‘In Love‘ channelled post-punk Cure style vocals and hazy psychedelic gems such ‘Bloodshake’, follow-up ‘Happy People‘ aims to heighten the influence of modern pop jauntiness which has drawn comparison to sonically floating contemporaries such as The Maccabees and Foals.

‘Happy People’ as an optimism laden title is a striking juxtaposition which masks the stark lyrical desperation seen throughout the album, representing a divergent theme of this multi-layered grower of a second record which unveils its expressive dexterity upon repeat listening.

Lead track ‘O You‘ immediately sets the template with pleasantly exotic sounding Caribbean marimba rhythms acting as the ironic backing for a track evoking the anxious thoughts of a 90’s generational youth looking at the children of today as having inherited a broken society. Lead singer and guitarist Harry Koisser cries out in near futility on chorus cries of, “I’m just trying to change the world that you live in. O You, Trying to make it better for your children, O You”, before an instrumental mash-up of stop-start power chords and orchestral rhythms underpin the madcap couplet brilliance in the lines, “Hot lover, chemically blessed, Soul brother, spiritual mess, Hypnotizer, not another six string sympathiser”.

The ominous clock ticking intro of ‘Gen Strange‘ and a series of synthesizer notes which wouldn’t be out of place on a Clubland compilation make way for a melodic aping of the guitar riffs found in Cornershop’s 1997 hit ‘Brimful Of Asha’. This thinly veiled homage to the baggy trouser wearing Britpop era is nonetheless a warmly received slice of no nonsense iridescent pop which would slot in flawlessly on a summer afternoon festival setlist.

A thundering Libertines esque guitar intro leads into a similarly glittering ‘Get Lost On Me‘, highlighting Koisser’s lyrical flexibility in matching the progressively snaking instrumental comprising the harmoniously spectral verses with the swaggering command of the likes of the Stone Roses Ian Brown in the memorable chorus shouts.

Album standout ‘Perfect Skin‘ reflects a central point on ‘Happy People’, where the adjacent influences of 90’s Britpop and more contemporary alternative rock and roll meet head on at the proverbial crossroads. An ever building chuntering of palm muted guitar and spiked infusions of synthesizer weave around, offsetting intensely self-conscious notions of inferiority in which Koisser repeatedly exclaims, “I need less of me in me and more of you in me”, rounded off with a Jake Bugg vocal style chorus proclamation of acute self-disparagement.

The title track provides a nostalgic trip back into the kaleidoscopic slow burning charms of ‘In Love’, consisting of reverberating Foals shaped guitar echoing behind haunting lyrics of disconnection from society as a brief analysis of what it means to be happy in a seemingly stagnant existence, before seguing into the Oasis fuelled acoustic homage in ‘Someday‘, offering similar sentiments of lost youth, forgotten love and changing seasons each compounded with sustained isolation.

The capitalist based mocking found on ‘Money‘ gloriously flirts with Motown, complete with extended guitar solos before a final run of experimental genre crossing tracks – the grunge infused distortion filled ‘I’m a Girl‘, the fabulous sultry jazz-blues of ‘Under the Moon‘, a modern descendant of Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’, and an equally gravitating fusion of funk and soul on the six-minutes plus jam closer.

This genre-spanning record fashions a rare musical feat in bookending several decades of music within a concise and deftly layered album. The songs offer vast rewards for those willing to delve into an intriguing world of lyrical desperation, constructed within an instrumental cocoon embodying strident optimism; seemingly reflecting these pensive winter months with one firm eye on summertime salvation.

(Jamie Boyd)

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