Happy People Music Review
There was a time, circa the release of California Daze and then EP Delicious, when being a fan of Peace would have made you appear ‘cool’ – almost no one had heard of them, and whenever I came across anyone who shared a love for songs like Bloodshake and Ocean’s Eye I automatically thought highly of them. Oh, how the times have changed; the year just gone not only witnessed them supporting the mum-friendly Bombay Bicycle Club on a nationwide tour, but also playing at the Isle of Wight festival. If you have to choose two surefire marketing ploys to make you as ubiquitous as a digital Casio watch, it would be those two.
Sure, having a wider fanbase is not necessarily a negative thing, but a problem arises if a musician begins to change their style or shy out of taking risks in order to cater to a particular demographic. It’s self-censorship, in a way.
Upon spinning the tacky-looking, yellow-coloured deluxe vinyl for the very time on release day, I was anticipating an album as accomplished and uplifting as their 2013 debut In Love, an album that was an at-the-time relatively underground universal swansong destined for the masses. The pre-album singles had already defined the tricky second album as a bland refinement as opposed to a radical and brazen reinvention.
Opener O You‘s intro sounds plastic-y and builds you up for a fall into a realistically underwhelming second album. That’s not to say that this is a bad album, because it isn’t – just try and imagine if a second Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were made using a very similar storyline, would you not be a little disappointed?
Tracks like Gen Strange, Lost on Me, and Money are undeniably aimless fun with a hint of wobbling funk, which is essentially what Peace are all about, but crucially, all of them lack the punch of Wraith, the sass of 1998, or even the nuance-truanting youth romance and nonchalance of Lovesick.
In a way not dissimilar to Oasis‘ degeneration after Definitely Maybe, Peace have gone from being optimists that have every right to be pessimistic to pessimists that have every right to be optimistic – they’ve gone from gutter-dwellers looking up at all the A-list parties and Radio One guest slots, to being the former missing being the later. The bellowing belief of lead signer Harrison Koisser and the cherubic charm in his voice during In Love‘s Follow Baby (“we gunna live forever baby”) has been replaced by self-consciousness and insecurities in the likes of Perfect Skin and Under the Moon. The enthusiasm of Koisser’s voice has been seemingly lost along the way, and he sounds depressing and lackadaisical as he announces on Under the Moon: “Lie in on Monday and dress like a girl, I’m ugly, that’s just what I am“.
There were glimpses of Oasis in Peace‘s debut album, but track six of the album and the first on the second side of the record, Someday, sounds like a carbon copy of Cast No Shadow. Someday sounds like it’s Happy People’s answer to California Daze, and if that’s what it is, then it is personification of just how much the second album falls short of the first. Peace have never been lyrical geniuses or wordsmiths, and that’s fine, but when Koisser sings “I hope someday you find someone to love” it feels so generic and uninspired, so much so that it sounds like it could have been a lyric taken from any album that’s ever been made.
It’s well documented that Peace have never exactly been avant-garde, and the omnipresent ‘Stone Roses rip-off’ tag can potently be seen on final track World Pleasure, a song that features Koisser semi-successfully attempting a spoken word faux-rap. It stops and you think the album is finished, but then it starts again for some instrumental foreplay. Eerily familiar? Having said that, World Pleasure, along with title track Happy People, are my personal favourite songs on the record. It’s a record with its ups and its downs, and in many ways it’s a coming of age that documents fragility and reveals hidden undertones of paranoia which were beneath the surface of the loved-up romance of In Love.
This album is not a classic, nor is it an accomplished hot rock, and it shows that Peace aren’t as indestructible as we all thought they were – they’re vulnerable like the rest of us. They may have gone from dreamers sounding like a Hugh Grant film to self-loathing broken hearts, but this album is the sound of Peace entering the real world and being realistic. Now it’s time to be realistic with your expectations of Peace.