Why is Gen X so much better at talking about itself than Millennials? Sure, time is an enormous factor – the youngest Millennials can barely drink legally – but it seems as though today’s young’uns never speak as a group. Songs focus on either personal experience or a faceless group of writhing bodies united only by level of drunkenness. Two’s a love song, three’s a crowd, an entire generation with hopes and ambitions beyond bottle service is not even worth touching. What gives?
Or rather, what changed? Gen X spat honest and ruthlessly sardonic musical dissections of their world – dissections performed whilst entrenched in the very culture they skewered. They saw themselves clearly from the inside, engaging in serious social introspection even as they celebrated themselves. If Millennials are indeed the intolerable narcissists Boomers tell us we are, why do we have so little to say about ourselves as a group?
Enter Happy People, Peace’s second album and the first record of 2015 and in recent memory to (partially) succeed at some spirited generational-wide awareness.
When successful, Happy People is an involved study in young adult angst and desire. “Perfect Skin” is what it sounds like: an uptempo and self-deprecating love song for former Proactiv teens. Frontman Harry Koisser executes a tongue-in-cheek takedown of modern machismo on “I’m A Girl,” belting, “If we’re living in a man’s world / then I’m a girl, I’m a girl, I’m a girl,” without so much as smirking at his own wit. Like any decent comedian, Koisser knows laughing at his own joke kills the charm.
Peace excel at feigned sincerity, but they lose when they actually mean it. Quick note to Millennial bands: if you can write well about the generational experience, do it. You can deal with universal themes and the human experience when you’re old and lame. It’s no coincidence that biting standout “Money” uses the term “bitcoins” effectively while the forgettable title track lumbers over ancient questions of misery and joy.
Musically, Peace spend Happy People trying super hard to sound like Peace and nobody else. Everything is bigger and gunning to be described as unique. Guitars twist into shapes resembling harpsichords, riffs get plunked out as though played on xylophones, clocks tick, chords swell behind sweeping solos. Sometimes the results are brilliant, like on album closer “World Pleasure.” Sometimes the sheer effort amounts to lackluster results, but it’s refreshing to hear the band give it their all in a world where cool factor too often coincides with how little you care.
In true Millennial fashion, Peace are as self-deprecating and self-aware as they are self-obsessed. Similar to the world and the generation it simultaneously deconstructs and glorifies, Happy People deals in contrasting dynamics. No amount of awareness could or should stop Peace from owning their swagger. That awareness lends substance to the swagger; the swagger then makes the awareness sound fresh and original.
Your move, Gen X.