Release Date: Feb 9, 2015
Record label: Columbia
Leaders of ‘Gen Strange’, an age where oddities are embraced quicker than a charming smile, on their second album Peace have morphed from giants-in-the-making to curious customers. There’s no doubting that ‘Happy People’ has every means of turning these festival staples into a far bigger deal, but in the same regard, we’re also witnessing a transformation. Harrison Koisser’s faux fur coats are getting dodgier, and with that, the songs he’s fronting are inhabiting their own, unorthodox space.
Increasingly, there are two kinds of emerging British rock ’n’ roll band: those, like Sleaford Mods, Slaves or Fat White Family, who burn with incandescent rage and volume; and those, like Peace, Swim Deep or Temples, who seem committed to restoring indie through the power of positive thinking. These are the bands who hark back to the glory days of Boy Indie, of waifish white males singing insouciant lust-songs full of celestial metaphors, squandering their per diems on charity-shop furs and teashade sunglasses. Peace’s exuberant 2013 debut ‘In Love’ (even their album titles radiate optimism) may have worn its early-90s influences a little obviously, but a certain rose-tinted nostalgia for The Way Things Used To Be was part of its appeal.
Birmingham indie pop quartet Peace's follow-up to their successful debut In Love sees them polish up their guitar melodies and Harry Koisser's vocals with the addition of strings, synths, and an array of different sounds that expand their Brit-pop-inspired sound. There's no denying that this album was primed for the radio and their largely younger fan base, with easily digestible, clean-edged songs. They brought Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian producer Jim Abbiss on board and with that the entire record feels far more refined and complete than their debut, bringing together uptempo grooves with some of the psych-rock influences that underpin "Lost on Me" and closer "World Pleasure.
With their foppish hair and dandyish charisma, Birmingham band Peace are regularly heralded as descendants of Britpop. With the exception of its brilliantly baggy rhythm section and Mansunish moments, however, Happy People lacks the swagger of its predecessors. Musically and ideologically, its intentions are a little conflicting: there’s a willingness to throw away a curious, cool groove into a generic anthemic abyss, and its world-conquering optimism is often negated by tales of fragility and doubt.
Two years ago the debut from young West Midlands four-piece Peace was hailed in some quarters as the very essence of 2013. That seemed to be overstating the case for what were essentially reheated baggy leftovers skilfully marketed at people who hadn’t yet been born in 1990. The follow-up finds their historical odyssey moving on very slightly – in between the lumpen EMF and Stone Roses parodies, Someday sounds like something from 1995, specifically Oasis’s Cast No Shadow.
Amid the wreckage of the failed Gritpop revolution, one band stood out. While it was easy enough to dismiss the knuckle-dragging pub rock drudgery of Viva Brother or snigger at Palma Violets’ comical attempts at chronicling teenage romanticism and misadventure, Peace seemed to gather a loyal pack of cheerleaders purely by being the least bad option. Sure, they borrowed more from the Madchester baggy scene than Britpop’s supposed heyday, but the effect was the same – four scruffy, shaggy-haired white guys anointed as guitar music’s latest saviors, three chords and some cocky patter apparently all that’s required to be 'the future of indie'.
Birmingham quartet Peace recently gave one of those interviews that’s cropped up every couple of years in the music press over the past decade: a group of men (it’s always men) bemoans the prevalence of ‘dance’ music and presents themselves as the saviours of ‘guitar’ music. And, just like Kasabian, Palma Violets and Razorlight before them, the music behind all of this pull-quote-friendly bravado is deeply conservative. Peace make pop-rock in the blandest sense possible: rigidly conventional song structures scuffed up with the occasional ‘indie’ musical trope.
There are a lot of clichés surrounding second albums. Thankfully, there’s no need to bring them up them here. This gaggle of unlikely 20-somethings from the post-industrial heartlands surrounding Birmingham have come up with with the goods again. peace’s In Love (top marks for the word play, there) drew on grunge and American guitar bands like Yo La Tengo in a big way, sliding into our record collections right next to the likes of Yuck.
Cannibal Ox:Blade Of The Ronin Cannibal Ox are one of those Salinger-grade acts who followed up an instant classic full-length with a silence long enough to seem like a breakup and rustling with just enough rumors to keep hope flickering. During that late-‘90s to early-‘00s moment when “underground rap” had enough of a shadowy presence in on both sides of the now-defunct indie-mainstream aisle to seem like a cohesive genre, the NYC duo’s sole LP, 2001’s The Cold Vein, defined an era, a sound, and an ethos. But, largely on the strength of that record, the times have caught up to Can Ox: formerly their work was most fully realized of many attempted updates on Public Enemy’s apocalyptic sonic M.