PURVEYORS of dreamy indie-pop, Peace, have returned with second album, Happy People, which has taken them down a path more cigarettes and alcohol than sunshine and rainbows.
The Worcester four-piece exploded onto the UK indie scene in 2013 with a magnificent debut, In Love, before taking time out to tour and craft their new sound. Last year, Peace supported the likes of The Libertines, before getting back in the studio to lay down a new record with Jim Abbiss. Abbiss has worked with Arctic Monkeys on their generation-defining first release Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and others like Kasabian and Bombay Bicycle Club. This guy knows how to produce indie.
With Peace, he has helped refine an album which brings the best of ‘90s Brit-pop into the 21st century. Unfortunately the Koisser brothers haven’t quite channelled the swagger and bravado of their Gallagher counterparts. Their faces just don’t quite fit sounds they’re creating.
Nothing represents this more than opening track ‘O You’. The arrangement is completely muddled. Sure, it sets the ‘90s throwback precedent with the Oasis-like orchestral strings and gloomy verses, but it has an oriental twist present throughout.
The shortest song on the ten track effort, ‘I’m A Girl’, also confuses the simple essence of Brit-pop by throwing in a punk attitude, but with no restrained indie sensibility.
The best elements of the album come through in the use of funky rhythm sections and sporadic samples which Peace and Abbiss could have exploited more.
‘Gen Strange’ embodies the current trend sweeping through mainstream pop of funk revival. The groovy rhythm and bass sections and bouncing riffs are complimented perfectly by Harry Koisser’s serene vocals. This track undoubtedly gives Peace mainstream appeal but maintains critical credibility.
Happy People’s second single, ‘Lost On Me’, follows on, blending in seamlessly from ‘Gen Strange’. Chugging guitars and handclaps provide a base for Koisser to whine over. The driving chorus hits you with force as Koisser wails “I love it when it hits, the lightning from your lips”.
In keeping with the funky, northern soul, dance driven sound which is popular at the moment, these tracks are the album’s real triumph.
Lead single ‘Money’ is a bit of an earworm and could be very commercially successful, but it has a feeling of déjà vu. The light harmonies, booming bassline and catchy breakdown featuring bared vocals are a Blur-y haze of an era gone by for a generation that missed out on the excitement of the ‘90s.
The real flaw of the album lies in its lack of direction. Tracks like ‘Perfect Skin’ with its muffled fuzzy basslines and the gentle acoustic temperament of title track ‘Happy People’ are perfectly good indie songs but the range in styles is distant.
Peace of 2013 had a unique, dreamy, surf rock sound that is so hard to find done tastefully but they seem to have neglected that with Happy People. From radio-friendly to completely creepy, Happy People is like a pick ‘n’ mix – sweet, sour and ranging all colours, shapes and sizes, but there is no single bag of jelly beans that leaves you feeling satisfied.