CarouselsEdit this event
So, as the dark nights draw in the final months of 2012, the music industry's annual forecasters and tipsters are no doubt sat down making lists predicting 2013's brightest hopefuls as we speak. One name that's likely to feature on many of those lists rests in the shape of Birmingham's Peace, a band who've amassed a fair amount of column inches these past few months.
While their ascent can be seen as a small victory for the provinces, making a refreshing change from the usual glut of London-based, record company proteges steered by high flying management teams wielding big budgets, it does seem that the desperation for a British guitar band to break through from the underground has overshadowed the small factor as to whether said artists are ready for such a huge weight of expectation to be placed upon their shoulders. Certainly in the case of Peace, with just one limited edition single and a recently released EP to their name, such prophecies of all encompassing greatness are a tad premature to say the least. Currently embarking on their first UK headline tour, the fact tonight's show has completely sold out in advance suggests there's a buzz of anticipation surrounding their every movement. Whether or not they live up to the hype is another thing.
Before the headline band's arrival, Cambridge five-piece Carousels take to the stage and put in an impressive show for the entire duration of their twenty-five minute slot. Playing a set consisting of just five songs, their lo-fi, drone heavy take on early 1990s shoegaze is a blissful entree and totally at odds with the more hedonistic baggy leanings of tonight's bill toppers. Opener 'Stay With Me' conjures up memories of the late lamented Moonshake, all luscious male-female harmonies drowned in hazy reverb-laced melodies aplenty. And so the formula continues throughout, the delicate strains of 'In Alone' melting effortlessly into the post-punk fizz of 'Over Me'. Sure, this kind of thing has been done before, and many have tried since, but not with such an overwhelming sense of grace and panache as this. Afterwards the band seem pleasantly surprised at the response they're afforded, somewhat highlighted by the queue at the back of the room eager to purchase one of their recently released Pop EPs. Ones to watch in the coming months for sure.
As for Peace, the crush of bodies at the front before they've even played a note kind of shows the regard they're held in. By some at any rate. Dressed in what look like recycled togs from an EMF video circa 1991; all tie-dye and loosely fitted clothes, not to mention the curtains-style barnets last seen modelled by Shaun Ryder on the 'Step On' video around the same period. Peace are an unfathomably complicated bunch when simplicity would surely be a better option. From the moment 'Oceans Eye' opens their set, all swirly guitar histrionics and obligatory one-liners eschewing bravado ("Cross my heart and you hope to die"). Second song 'Follow Baby' takes a similar path, only this time via Moseley to the dancier, dare I say it baggier origins of Ocean Colour Scene before they befriended Paul Weller and discovered Oasis. 'Li'l Echo' too sets its stall out in a time when flared trousers and oversized floppy hats were all the rage, the only characteristic relating its existence to the present coming by way of the chirpy, two-step outro reminiscent of Antidotes era Foals. Gradually, that sound begins to permeate the rest of the set, a ten-minute long cover of Binary Finary's '1998' being the notable exception. And that pretty much sums Peace up: A band still finding their feet, still unsure of what musical direction to pursue, still mastering the art of cohesive and coherent songwriting and ultimately not ready to be ushered into the spotlight as provincial saviours of a genre that isn't really in dire need of resuscitation anyway.
Of course some of those present will point to the over-excitable response from a fair section of the audience; the speakers nearly collapsing off stage onto the front rows after only two songs; the stage diving that almost causes several head-on collisions with the rafters supporting the low roof; the "impromptu stage invasion" at the end which may have been staged. Someone remarks in the bar afterwards that they remind him of Animal Collective. Well, only if the animal said commentator is referring to happens to be a six-weeks old kitten which is basically a watered down version of a tiger.
Given time and room to breathe, Peace may yet fulfill the promise they undoubtedly possess. At the moment, though, they're at a musical crossroads that's pointing left towards the two door cinema club or right back in time. Which road they choose to take will no doubt define their existence. For now, maybe occupying middle ground territory is the safest option after all.