For over three decades the Levellers has consistently given the public authentic, relevant, thought-provoking and feet tapping classics. Unlike so many bands that were conceived in the late eighties and enjoyed chart success in the nineties their music and accompanying philosophical and politically charged lyrics are as poignant (if not more) now. With so many songs in their back catalogue and the ability to continuously reinterpret their tunes live; the Levellers could still be current and fresh throughout the 2020s without releasing a follow-up LP to their 2012 Static on the Airwaves LP.
Peace not only excites because it is the first collection of new songs in eight years; it also elates because this material earns its right to be counted amongst what is featured on Weapon called the Word (celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year) and the number one LP Zeitgeist (celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year). The only question left to ask is how and why Peace measures up.
Opening with “Food Roof Family”, the undying punk charged passion and power is immediately present. Whilst the fiddle section resembles “100 Years of Solitude”; this is no formulaic cut and paste project as the urgency of “Food Roof Family” compels the listener to perspire nervous energy. The lyrics are sung by Mark Chadwick “Have you ever, ever stopped the voices that you’ve never heard before? And won’t we ever, ever stop. Won’t we ever stop to learn” adroitly tap into the current, chilling zeitgeist.
The energy rush continues with “Generation Fear” which sees keyboard player Matt Savage open with simple, but powerful and engaging static fused chords accompanied with hard rock guitars and palpitation raising strings and bass lines. This unique, no filler two and a half minute anthem not only induces serotonin but also succinctly broaches the issues of global warming and fake news.
The other powerful, potent, body moving and adrenaline rushing tracks from Peace include “Our New Day”, lead single “Calling Out”, “The Men Who Would Be King” and “Albion and Phoenix” where (for the exception of the last song where Simon and Mark duet) Simon is the lead vocalist. “Our New Day” is probably an accidental but perfect hybrid of live classic “Dirty Davey” and “The Game”. The call for action can be heard without being tedious or pretentious whilst being mindful of the post-Brexit climate as opposed to the social context leading up to the Criminal Justice Act or 9/11.
Lead single “Calling Out” sees Simon in the promo video as a modern-day Winston Smith waking up, getting ready to go to work and commuting to work has an unorthodox introduction from a Levellers perspective with an almost Blondie “Atomic” guitar haunt to it. Whilst like much of the material on this LP “Calling Out” is political; Simon, however, elevates his political awareness by tapping into the individual (as opposed to left-wing ideology) and how the individual is acquiesced to fit into the modern economy which is captured throughout the lyrics “When did my life become so boring? And was it old the night I turned into a slave.”
“The Men Who Would Be King” like “Our New Day” is around the two and a half minute mark but leans more into the intense punk rawness style of folk-punk band Ferocious Dog (who has previously supported the Levellers). The sense of urgency through the fiddle and the Levellers collective cacophony of sound builds up to the perfect crescendo finishing with sudden, unexpected static. “Albion and Phoenix” is about the early Brighton landmarks (a steep road/hill and a squat) which were influential in the bands formative years to an enchanting music backdrop of opening guitar riffs reminiscent to “Sell Out” building into a chorus with the uplifting riotous charge of “Leave This Town”.
As well as powerful punk-fuelled songs Peace also has a plethora of more sanguine (yet equally poignant) acoustic and folk led ballad tracks. “Ghosts in the Water” which Mark debuted at his acoustic solo gigs calling for spiritual introspection impresses with innovative and original musical arrangements that will leave one melancholy. “Four Boys Lost” has a lamenting, yet uplifting modern sea shanty vibe where Simon demonstrates himself as an evolving raconteur. The most innovative track is the playout “Our Future” with its prog, mystical and psychedelic opening with a “Summer of Love” set amidst the Levellers unique blend of folk and country arrangements with a prominent banjo.
The way the Levellers has promoted their music has changed dramatically. The Peace promotional videos sees the individual Levellers members transformed into Japanese kokeshi style decorated wooden dolls to introduce the tracks, their messages and inspirations to write them. This change is welcome as is the evolution of the sound across many of the tracks without losing the elements and characteristics that make the Levellers unique to their loyal fan base. As with each Levellers LP Jez provides outstanding artwork with colours similar to those used on the Zeitgeist LP in a style reminiscent to his “King of All Time” piece that featured on the ‘What a Beautiful Day’ single. With honest, non-preaching social commentary and being a collective uplifting force for good; Peace is likely to become a lean and filler-free Levellers classic to existing and new listeners.