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. Not that there’s anything wrong with this approach per se: on their most recent album, One Direction combined plaid-shirted Bruce Springsteen-isms with cast-iron Scandi-pop songwriting to winning effect. But Peace simply don’t have the songwriting chops to overcome their many shortcomings as a band.
“Pop-house is great while you’re cooking. Or in the club. But you’re not going to tattoo the lyrics on your chest,” said Peace frontman Harrison Koisser in that agenda-setting interview. Frankly, anyone who chooses to have Peace’s lyrics inked onto their skin is likely to end up as a regretful contributor on a future episode of Bodyshockers. The words on Happy People encompass beta-male whining (“I wish I had perfect skin / I wish I was tall and thin / I wish I wore gorgeous clothes / with muscles around my bones”), unappealing world weariness (the entirety of the title track) or metaphors which really shouldn’t have survived the first-draft phase – the worst offender being Money’s “The man who’s made of money / is terrible to kiss / not because he’s sloppy / but because his paper lips / stuck to you on contact”.
The lameness of the words would be forgivable if they were paired with music that provided any kind of pleasant distraction. But across Happy People’s 10 tracks, the band prove themselves incapable of writing a single decent hook. Tracks like wannabe state-of-the-nation anthem Gen Strange and Lost On Me substitute perkiness for craft; Happy People contains a half-decent verse melody that’s wasted on a chorus that sounds like it was written in less time than it took to sing it, while even the best song here, O You, resembles a Shed Seven album track.
Perhaps Peace’s music makes more sense in a live setting, where the band’s reputedly energetic performances and charismatic stage presence can make up for their recorded output’s shortcomings. But, as it is, Happy People amounts to a whole heap of nothing.