Kids In Glass Houses have always been a band on the periphery of success. Debut album Smart Casual saw the quintet capitalise on the exposure that support slots alongside Lostprophets, 30 Seconds To Mars and Manic Street Preachers had given them, with 12 tracks of no-nonsense, but catchy, punk-pop. The album quickly built up a strong following and led to the band’s own headline tour plus a support slot with Fall Out Boy in 2009.
As well as quickly establishing them among the pop-punk fraternity, Smart Casual suggested Kids In Glass Houses were already prepared for the big time. But while the Welsh outfit’s second album, 2010’s Dirt, was more ambitious – including an ill-advised collaboration with Frankie from The Saturdays – it only faired slightly better than their debut and failed to give them the platform to progress further.
Claims that they were going in a “radically different direction” ahead of third album, In Gold Blood, were very promising and while it did no better in the album charts – once again creeping into the Top 30 – its soaring, riff-heavy anthems delivered on many levels and left fans and critics satisfied. But with mainstream success still evading Kids In Glass Houses, fourth album Peace feels like a pivotal point in their career.
With that in mind, it seems appropriate that the band have returned to the formula that served them so well on their debut. “The approach to this record was to do something in the vein of what we used to do, where we focused on writing singles,” said frontman Aled Phillips, before the album’s release. And the title track does exactly that, with an insanely catchy chorus in the same vein as the equally pop-orientated Easy Tiger from Smart Casual.
It’s quickly followed by the lead single Drive, which is another undeniably infectious track virtually bursting at the seams with expansive guitar riffs, as Phillips shows his impressive vocal range on the chorus: “And if you wanna drive me out my mind/ if you wanna see the things inside.” V-I-People continues the boundlessly energetic start to Peace, with its thumping beat matched by a rushing, breathless melody.
The dark, mature overtones of In Gold Blood are unceremoniously shaken loose, with Kids In Glass Houses clearly focusing on producing an album that is simply good fun. It’s an approach that is hard to dislike, with tracks such as the care-free The Runaways and joyous Set My Body Free frenetic pop at its very best. The latter, in particular, is probably the most commercial the band have ever sounded, but it manages to do so without ever sounding forced.
As successful as this back-to-basics formula is, understandably, the band are unable to keep up the pace consistently throughout the record. Storm Chasers is by no means a bad track, but it has a tough act to follow and sounds rather bland and restricted in comparison to the pop gems that opened the album, while Black Cloud and closer Nightcrawler lack the bite required to really make them stick in the memory after the last riff has faded.
However, while Peace does not quite finish on the bang that would have really rounded off a great record, there is no doubt that it reflects the band at their most natural. From start to finish, Kids In Glass Houses have focused on writing ten potential singles and while they don’t necessarily achieve that feat, there is plenty to keep even their harshest critic entertained. Whether it’s enough for the mainstream success is yet to be seen, but they have certainly never sounded better.