‘Give peace a chance’, they said, and so I did – reviewing their second album, Happy People, for Brightonsfinest back in 2015. While I was sympathetic to the common criticism that the band are not the most original bunch in the world, I concluded that their approach was more a case of tribute and reference than mere copyists with no fresh ideas. Following the successful cycle of the second album Peace went remarkably quiet, especially for a band fronted by an archetypal loud-mouthed party animal frontman like Harrison Koisser. After two year’s silence the first peep out of the band, and the first sounds we heard from this record, came in the form of ‘From Under Liquid Glass’, an uncharacteristically moody song released in support of mental health charity MQ and a centre piece for the album. Harry’s voice soars high with confessional lyrics over the grandiose but simple back-drop of bombastic drums and gritty but minimal guitars.
This seemed to be the first hints of a new direction for the party band, and one that’s definitely borne out on their third album. As promotion wrapped up on Happy People, it seems the band were the least together they’d been since the group was formed by the Koisser brothers towards the end of their teens. They decided to take a break, but not from each other, with the band renting a property from the National Trust in Herefordshire to spend six months writing in a forest, testing whether their friendships would survive the intensity that comes with being in a rock’n’roll band full-time. Thankfully they emerged stronger, refreshed and more united than before, with Koisser revealing his most dramatic personal changes as part of the process: quitting alcohol and becoming an unlikely yoga and meditation enthusiast.
Following the writing retreat the band relocated to the Catskill Mountains in Woodstock to work with producer Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers/Lumineers/Bat For Lashes). Felice is a producer who is most concerned with the artist’s performance, rather than just sonics, and that is most evident on Harry’s vocals on this record which, probably similarly aided by leaving the booze behind, sound better than ever here on this, their most emotional record. It’s not all doom and gloom and introspection, though, the album opens with the upbeat single ‘Power’, written about a thunderstorm that rolled in over the mountains while the band were recording. Koisser has stated that he was immediately reminded of the energy of the crowds they spent the last few years wowing, and so the song became a tribute and, perhaps, a concession to those crowds. It’s undoubtedly going to be a crowd pleaser for fans of the first two Peace albums, even potentially providing another 90s reference, unless I’m the only one who remembers He-Man’s battle cry.
Title track ‘Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll’ is a pocket-sized epic, that seems to recall The Beatles and even Queen with its classic sounding modal shifts and gospel choir. It takes the listener on a real journey and packs in a hell of a lot in under three minutes, it’s possibly the cleverest bit of writing I’ve heard from the band. ‘Silverlined’ takes a more mellow step, before single ‘You Don’t Walk Away From Love’ steps up to get the crowds moving again, with a pulsating driving bassline and simple but effective riffs. ‘Angel’ is an interesting tune, just reverb-soaked electric guitar and voice, that has a little resemblance to The Jam’s ‘English Rose’. It contains some great soul-baring confessional lyrics though, such as: “I’m smart enough to know I’m stupid”. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about Harry Koisser as a lyricist, while I might find his turn of phrase a little silly from time to time, his words are usually memorable and clearly stated in a way that means you hear them in the song, rather than having to check them on the page and, as a result, they seem honest and convincing. It’s one of a number of tracks that don’t contain drums in the back half of the album, which works as an artistic choice, but could easily be due to drummer Dominic Boyce breaking his arm during recording sessions, having to complete the album one handed.
If Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll is Peace’s stab at a more mature, emotionally rich, coming-of-age album, it’s surprisingly concise. Most bands making such a statement would take their time about it, pulling on the heartstrings with extended emotive instrumentals. Peace are not that band, their songs are short and concise, a pop sensibility under-pinning everything they do. While some may find their direct, full-blown approach to everything they do a little over-baring, I think it’s what will keep the fans onside through a slight change of direction. This album showcases a mellower Peace, but it’s still full of high drama and bombast, rather than quietly crying themselves to sleep at night they are loudly declaring their new found love for self-reflection.