The Birmingham band are back on breathtaking form
Peace have always been a band with something to say. In 2013, following the release of debut album ‘In Love’, guitarist Doug Castle appeared on BBC radio show Pienaar’s Politics to discuss protest music. “Spreading a message of love is more important than spreading a message of hate,” he told the show’s host. On second album ‘Happy People’, they spoke out about issues relevant to their fans’ lives, like grappling with physical insecurities (“I wish I had perfect skin/I wish I was tall and thin” on ‘Perfect Skin’) and society’s accepted ideas of gendered behaviour (“If you’re not macho then try to be funny/If you can’t fuck or fight then I hope that you’re hungry” on ‘I’m A Girl’).
On their third album, the Birmingham four-piece are more outspoken than ever, this time around putting their message front and centre. Cynics can scoff at a band like Peace – some way off the global reach of the likes of, say, Coldplay – being so bold as to name their record ‘Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll’. But in an increasingly politicised time where the world feels like it’s on the brink of several disasters stemming from greed, power, corruption and insular narrow-mindedness, it’s a reminder of the necessity of trying to enact change in your own world, whatever its size.
The title track – a gospel-backed beauty that pulls off its epic ambitions – reflects the same idea Doug spoke about five years ago. “We’re all bones and skin with feelings underneath/So let’s make war on war,” frontman Harry Koisser declares. Later, he instructs: “Give me kindness and I’ll show you love/Expose your weakness, learn to trust.” On closer ‘Choose Love’, they return to similar topics. Harry ruminates bringing political factors into his music on the track, which shares its name with a Help Refugees campaign: “Any idiot can sing it in a song,” he reasons, “so sing it.“
That wry, frank approach to songwriting appears elsewhere on the album, too. ‘From Under Liquid Glass’ tackles Harry’s struggle with depression in a similar manner: “I’m scared to face the music/Alone in my big fucking mental head,” he sighs at one point. Its vulnerability is matched by a skeletal accompaniment until everything lifts at the end with Dom Boyce’s muscular beats. Given the subject matter and beautifully heartbreaking chorus, there’s something weirdly euphoric about it, partially in the way Harry’s voice soars to grand new heights. Like on the rest of the album, he sounds the best he ever has.
Peace built their name off fizzing anthems that made you want to fling yourself into a sweaty mass of bodies and devote your life to the band, and there’s still plenty of that in their arsenal. ‘Power’ is the kind of song that makes you feel totally invincible, Sam Koisser’s bass driving the verses with swaggering confidence, and ‘You Don’t Walk Away From Love’ is a swaggering triumph. Less anthemic, but no less powerful, ‘Magnificent’ sweeps through the album’s centre on a wave of strings. The gorgeous ‘Silverlined’ features heart-swelling sentiments (“I want to love you with all of my ashes“) and a gargantuan solo from Doug that sounds like a bolt of electricity crackling through water. It’s a glorious peak on an album that, save a couple of weaker links (‘Angel’ and ‘Just A Ride’) is hard to fault. Thank god Peace are back, and on breathtaking form.