Peace ‘Happy People’ – Review

6 Mar

There is a kind of cult of personality surrounding Harrison Koisser. He is an enegmatic frontman – his style mixes classic rock n roll iconography with drag chic and vintage swagger. He has an engaging online persona; a master of Twitter and Instagram, he is witty, friendly and on-trend. He’s also personable with the fans in ‘real life’ and can often be found talking to them before and after gigs. In many respects, Koisser is a one off at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, we live in a great age for indie music, but we are very short of distinctive personalities in mainstream guitar pop – it’s no wonder that Koisser has inspired such devotion from a young audience craving something both unifying and more exciting than the bland and generic rock music being served up by the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen and Twin Atlantic. Peace are a fun and attractive alternative.

The problem is that this distictive personality and engaging attitude has never really been translated into distinctive and engaging music. His clothes may be edgy, colourful and classic but his band’s music rarely has been. Fans have been trying to position Peace, and Koisser in particular, at the centre of the British indie-verse, in the lineage of Bowie, Morrissey, Gallagher, Doherty, Turner etc but to date Koisser has paled in comparison in the one department where it truely matters – the music.

As likeable as it is, ‘Happy People’ doesn’t do much to change any of that. It’s a good indie pop record that is a great deal more enjoyable and uplifting than most mainstream rock music in 2015, but it’s still frustratingly restrained and generic in some important respects. Very little of the personality that has made Koisser a minor Tumblr celebrity comes through on record; instead he leeches off the legends that he so obviously wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with. That may sound harsher than I intend – I like this record after all – but if fans are going to seat Peace at pop’s top table then we need to evaluate their credentials.

Just what is Koisser’s goal? Who knows. You know those people who smile and say how happy they are, but you look in their eyes and see absolute terror? He’s that kind of person. The happy songs are twisted and the sad songs shimmer with post-modern coyness.It’s hard to tell where the irony ends and the sincerity begins, partly because he paints serious subjects in shades of humour and conversely sings about trivial things as if the end of the world is imminant. Is the rapping on ‘World Pleasure’ (a basic anti-war/ pro pleasure song) meant to sound so jokingly inept? Is ‘Under the Moon’ a deliberatly shallow pastiche? When he tells us that he’s trying to make the world better for our children – is that an honest plea from the heart, is it a reference to ‘Heal the world’ or simply a throwaway line? It’s followed by the response ‘O you!’ And a swell of Disney-esque strings that seem to wink at the listener, suggesting a degree of irony. But the silliness makes for a dull blade to cut with – Throughout the record you never feel like you’re getting to know the real Harrison or his real beliefs.

But you have to give him credit for being endearingly ambitious. Koisser gives us his view on big topics – money, apathy, greed, ego, love, loss, happiness, depression and sexism. He’s admirably adventurous when it comes to subject matter, even if he sounds out of his depth. Ironically though, the best song on here is the most simple and heartfelt. ‘Someday’ describes, in clichéd but honest detail, post-break up contemplation. It desperately wants to be an Oasis ballad, which is brave considering even Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian (the two biggest a names in British Rock) have chickened out of writing one. In my opinion it qualifies as more than good enough.

Mostly the album is filled with spikey and fun indie pop gems like ‘lost on Me’, ‘Money’ and ‘I’m a Girl’ all of which proved themselves as festival anthems last summer (Columbia held up the record’s release for a while). 10 songs deep, there isn’t a dud on ‘Happy People’. Even the fairly middle of the road title track, the weakest song on here, breezes by nicely enough. The reference points and obvious influences are still far too easy to spot (‘World Pleasure’ in particular screams Blondie and Stone Roses) and that continues to hold them out of the reach of greatness, but the songwriting is strong and the melodies are deliciously catchy.

A few years ago ‘Happy People’would have fitted in nicely next to records by Delays, Kaiser Chiefs, Boy Kill Boy and all the indie also-rans. In 2014 though it sounds very much alone, which is kind of sad. There has to be a place for this type of music. It may not be as innovative or interesting as many other records released this year but to the right person – the type of person who was too young for The strokes and needs a rock-god to worship and wants to get caught up in band mania and needs reassuring that other people worry about society collapsing and desire perfect skin and feel lost – this will be an earth shattering record. You may not love it like that but Peace inspire passion like few other bands can right now.




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