Review: Kids In Glass Houses – ‘Peace’

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In the year that Fall Out Boy returned from their hiatus to release an album closer to Patrick Stump‘s solo material than anything they’d recorded before and Paramore championed a new genre of punk-funk, you could argue that Kids In Glass Houses‘ decision to release a pop album is a safe bet but this is yet another risk for the Welsh five piece – and one that deserves to pay off.

Two years ago, KIGH broke away from their radio friendly guitar pop to create a concept album à la My Chemical Romance. However, while ‘The Black Parade’ propelled My Chemical Romance into the spotlight, ‘In Gold Blood’ plummeted KIGH into obscurity. It was a critical success and even landed a nod from the Welsh Music Prize but it sold poorly and was almost entirely ignored by mainstream radio.

Peace‘ is evidently a direct response to the frustrations that surround their last release, but it shouldn’t be considered a cynical attempt at shifting a few more copies. This is not “selling out”; this is returning to form. Although ‘In Gold Blood’ is a bold and brave album that is deservedly adored by those who had the patience to tap into it, KIGH please most when they focus on big choruses and even greater key changes. When discussing ‘In Gold Blood’ retrospectively, the band seem to regret their ambition but they shouldn’t – ‘Peace’ could not have been made without the musical progression they made with ‘In Gold Blood’.

There’s no imaginative back story or Max Max dystopia to accompany ‘Peace’ but the brief to write ten songs strong enough to be hit singles has been fulfilled. Perhaps this is a concept album, with the concept being that KIGH are pretending to be the biggest band in the world until people believe them.

The only trace of My Chemical Romance left in their musical system is evident in ‘Set Me Free’ which sounds dangerously similar to ‘Planetary (Go!)’.  However, despite the over familiarity, the party jam still stands out as a highlight even with its odd opening line of  “You and me stick a straw into the wet dream”.

The rest of the album sounds nothing like their peers – their ‘peers’ being the bands that they have been labelled alongside by the category obsessed music press. ‘Peace’ shares more similarities to the Top 40 than what’s spread on the pages of Kerrang! magazine – even with Fall Out Boy pursuing a pop career – and that’s meant as a compliment.

The opening title track climaxes with a key change more epic than that of an X Factor’s winner song, yet still keeps cool with its anthemic ode to rock and roll that remains credible (this isn’t a case of Britney Spears covering Joan Jett). The album’s other single ‘Drive’ also has all that’s good about three minute wonders yet also boasts a sleek shine thanks to Dan Weller’s production. The same can be said about the contagious but never corny ‘Novocaine’, the unashamedly poptastic ‘Up All Night’ and work-out anthem ‘Black Cloud’, as well as the gentler ‘Runaways’.

Standing out however are the songs that mix pop perfection with unique KIGH licks. All songs stay true to the band (even when rewriting ‘Danger Days‘…), but some offer a deeper connection than others. ‘VIP’ is a powerful two-finger salute which is a stark contrast to the beautifully crafted closing ballad of ‘Nightcrawler’. The album features some of Aled Phillip’s most personal lyrics yet, and it’s ‘Stormchasers’ that showcases them the best with “Some storms are worth the rain” set to be inevitably inked into the skin of fans as often as their ‘Sunshine’ mantra.

There’s a reason why so many people listen to Katy Perry, Lady Gaga et al (whether openly or not) and that’s because good pop music is still good. ‘Peace‘ is really good pop music. Pop is short for popular, and that’s exactly what ‘Peace’ should be. Whether it will be is an entirely different question but if it doesn’t set the charts alight, it’s not the music that’s at fault.

9/10

Amy Jo McLellan
Amy Jo McLellan is the editor of Alt Scribe. She started writing about music in 2010 and has been dancing about architecture ever since. She became a featured blogger for Buzznet after winning their 2011 ‘Summer of Buzz’ talent search. Amy knows far too much about her favourite bands and describes herself as a “professional fangirl”. CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Kids In Glass Houses, Dawes. SPECIALIST SUBJECT: The rise and fall of 'Emo' 2006 - Now.

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