If the almost sickeningly charming video for UK band Peaness’ “How I’m Feeling” is any indication, the band seeks to cement itself as a beacon of simple happiness, friendship, togetherness and all manner of kindergarten creeds. As a matter of fact, if the song attached wasn’t so wonderful, it would be easy to write them off as an indie-pop act too cute for its own good. They play children here, after all, obsessed with insects and setting out to find a rare caterpillar in their town while their fun-free parents try to ground them. But let’s be honest with each other here: Peaness is an pop act with songwriting chops and the melodic licks to back them up. The song is killer and because of that, the video succeeds in spades.
Their first album, World Full of Worry, makes the case for pure and simple cuteness, and seems to counter directly with the more menacing cuteness of some of today’s indie pop. This listener seeks out Charly Bliss, Bleached and Bully when he’s in an indie mood, but songs like the headbanging “Kaizen” and above-mentioned “How I’m Feeling” cut that acid with a sugar that hits the spot. What’s missing in the screaming of these acts, as good as they are, is their happy song. What’s more, what’s lost in this world--in the case of many of their imitators--is catchiness.
Peaness understand the stunning simplicity of the pop-hook. Save your music-theory, your shifting time-signatures… there is an art to the quality pop song. Now, this isn’t to say Peaness are strangers to bitterness. Far from it. This album in particular deals with stress, anxiety, sadness and betrayal, and their 2019 EP, Are You Sure, hits on an angstier tone than this one even tries to touch. The latter example is the sound of a band finding its voice, of course, but the point stands: beyond this sweetness is the aftertaste of sorrow, exemplified in particular on late-stage tracks such as “Left to Fall Behind,” which seemingly deals with the breakup of a long-term relationship and the impeccable “Sad Song”--imagine that--which brings the album to its close. The latter is a slow acoustic jam that--while picking up where the former left off--finds the hope so inherent in change. That’s a mature moral for the children of Chester, who just yesterday were out hunting a caterpillar!
As their name would suggest (it’s pronounced like “penis” Peaness is no children’s band, but it’s a band that embraces the naivete of childishness. It’s grown-up in its themes, but gleefully immature in execution. Another favorite track of mine, the Britpop-muddled “Girl Just Relax” is a beautiful and funny meditation on young-adult insecurity. I love this song not just because of how catchy it is, but also because of its humor and everyman sophistication. The song’s fade-out takeaway suggesting “Comparison will kill you, measure your progress like a maniac,” contrasts starkly with the surreal imagery of being honed-in on in a pile of one’s duplicates and the song’s own comically down-to-earth title that’s belted each chorus. These opposites go together like salt and caramel, laughing and crying, and maturity and childishness. As a matter of fact, they go together like penis and pop music. A match, weirdly enough, made in heaven.