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.
With their foppish hair and dandyish charisma, Birmingham band Peace are regularly heralded as descendants of Britpop. With the exception of its brilliantly baggy rhythm section and Mansunish moments, however, Happy People lacks the swagger of its predecessors. Musically and ideologically, its intentions are a little conflicting: there’s a willingness to throw away a curious, cool groove into a generic anthemic abyss, and its world-conquering optimism is often negated by tales of fragility and doubt. It does however, offer counsel to their crowd: from the body-conscious Perfect Skin to the rejection of male stereotypes in I’m a Girl, this album caters to their teen audience, and its more rudimental lyrics may well work when smothered in live distortion. It’s an album that hints at greatness – such as World Pleasure, a seductive, serpentine thrill – but ultimately seems confused by its looming self-conciousness.