There are a lot of clichés surrounding second albums. Thankfully, there’s no need to bring them up them here. This gaggle of unlikely 20-somethings from the post-industrial heartlands surrounding Birmingham have come up with with the goods again. Peace’s In Love (top marks for the word play, there) drew on grunge and American guitar bands like Yo La Tengo in a big way, sliding into our record collections right next to the likes of Yuck. Happy People still takes its queue from music of 80s and 90s, but its influences can be located largely on this side of the atlantic. This latest offering is a reboot of the Britpop franchise for an audience who were just kids back in its heyday.
The album's opener “O You” is something of a false start, bouncing along in a kind inoffensive, Shed Seven type of a way, with a superabundance of strings. Thankfully, this four minutes of 'meh' then makes way for a series of impeccable pop songs. “Gen Strange” encapsulate the strange mix of optimism, disaffection, euphoria and self-loathing that make this album what it is. The track is a collage of unnerving guitar riffs and lyrics about the uncomfortable paranoia of the digital age spliced with the nostalgic, euphoric sound of the Brit-Pop anthem – and there's a sing-along chorus on an Ocean Colour Scene scale. “Lost On Me” is another big hitter, with a Gargbage-esque blend of aggressive guitars and effervescent pop melodies.
All this retrospection can get a bit tropey, though. “Perfect Skin” is, lyrically at least, a classic slacker anthem. It's a song about the archetypal “looser”: guy is disenchanted with his own body, feels generally deficient and wants a girl to fix his issues. “Money” is, again, perhaps not an inventive theme for social critique, but The Stone Roses style bass and will still make you start walking like Ian Brown.
“Happy People” is where Peace start to mark their own distinctly millennial territory. Guitars and vocals smudged by echo and reverb shroud lyrics which describe depression as feeling like a “bad computer, slow to load”. “I'm a Girl” is a guide to navigating troubled masculinities - “if you're not macho then try to be funny” - with Harry Koisser defiantly yelling that he doesn't “feel like a man”. It might also be the only song in pop history to be set in Digbeth, home to Birmingham's illustrious coach station.
This LP feels so Britpop because it packages its angst and its agenda in a layer of exuberance and fun. But it's the strange mix of disconnection, anxiety and gender trouble that makes this album a record made by Gen Y, for Gen Y.