As they play to Generation Strange at the ill-fitting SWX on Sunday, Birmingham quartet Peace remind us that new is not always better. Following six months in solitude, Peace are touring their recently released third album ‘Kindness is the New Rock ‘n Roll’; an album that, although addressing some hard hitting issues, is a far cry from the ground-breaking indie rock of the first two albums. It is no coincidence that the new album has received press that borders on apathetic.
The band bound onto stage and straight into 2012 hit ‘Wraith,’ an ambient guitar filled track, steeped in summer time, that immediately feels misplaced in the dark and dusty SWX. Even though the venue boasts an impressive sound system and unrivalled acoustics, the band’s sun-drenched sound would feel more at home at a July festival, in the afternoon, in a field, in the sunshine. The audience don’t seem to notice this allegory, however, launching into a mosh pit mere moments after the first chorus. It strikes me as strange that their laid-back rock tunes can evoke this reaction, but Peace remain oblivious as they proceed into new single ‘Power.’ Paired with second album hits ‘Money’ and ‘I’m A Girl,’ it suddenly becomes apparent just how overproduced the new record is, and the lack of Peace’s signature rock influence is omnipresent. Played live, ‘Power’ takes on an authentic mood, devoid of the empty call to arms that comes across in the recorded version.
Next is the trembling track ‘Silverlined.’ Whilst it is a gorgeous tribute to turbulent mental spaces, it is still missing that unique edge that gave Peace their niche in the beginning, and Harry Koisser’s crooning vocals appear to be the only consistent link between the albums. But the bands energy and impressive instrumental arrangements cannot go unrecognised as they continue into tracks old and new, accumulating in the explosive ‘1998.’ Rich with Ben Howard riffs, a Queen-esque bridge and a loss of inhibitions, this is undoubtedly the highlight of the night. It’s a shame that the infectious energy of these four minutes isn’t carried on throughout the set, but Peace do continue to raise the bar with a haunting rendition of ‘Gen Strange.’ Slowed down to an acoustic pace, this social commentary becomes more like a sermon. ‘Gen Strange’ reminds us of the bands unprecedented mastery of lyrics, which definitely comes across in this diverse set. Audience favourite ‘California Daze’ segways into two new tracks ‘You Don’t Walk Away From Love’ and ‘From Under Liquid Glass,’ which is possibly the highlight of the new album.
Harry’s vocal ability is at its finest in early encore ‘Float Forever,’ in which he stands alone on stage, the ringmaster of the crowd. The last three songs are big hits ‘Love Sick,’ new title track ‘Kindness is the New Rock ‘n Roll’ and ‘Bloodshake.’ It’s the perfect way to round off a gig: with the reminder that whilst the new album has lost its way with lyrics that try too hard and an unwelcome step away from rock riffs, the open shirt clad band are still some of Britain’s finest indie-rock talent. Their songs are empathetic ballads, laced with well disguised cynical lyrics and boasting a serious amount of musical talent. Maybe Peace have been drinking too much wine with the indie rock gang and ended up punchdrunk, but you should still give Peace a chance.