The Levellers - 'Peace' Album Review
1. Food, Roof, Family
2. Generation Fear
3. Four Boys Lost
4. Burning Hate Like Fire
5. Born That Way
6. Our New Day
7. Calling Out
8. Ghosts In The Water
9. The Men Who Would Be King
10. Albion & Phoenix
11. Our Future
It’s been 8 years since The Levellers last released an album of original material and in that time a lot of things have changed in the world and not always for the better. We’ve seen the rise of right wing politics, Brexit, the NHS being shafted time and time again, cuts to just about every service that regular people (who can’t afford to go private) need and the problems that go with all of this. The Levellers have a history of writing songs that are socio-political, so I think it’s safe to say that this album is going to touch on most of these themes and a few more.
Let’s get one thing clear first up, I love The Levellers. I’ve seen them loads over the years and they were the last gig I went to before Covid-19 shut everything down and changed the world. The guys told me in Falmouth that the (original) plan was to release 'Peace' one week before their Beautiful Days festival so they could celebrate its release then. Well things obviously didn’t go to plan and since March they have been releasing videos of most of the album via YouTube, as let’s face it, traditional methods won’t really work right now. Sadly, Beautiful Days wasn’t going to be an option. With that in mind, I’ve heard a lot of these songs for a while and really had a chance to absorb them.
The opening track off 'Peace', 'Food, Roof, Family' is a great choice to open the album as it’s a very typical Levellers song (both musically and lyrically). Personally, I never really thought that much about the three things that this song mentions until they are taken away from you. This year I was given a social flat after spending the last 3 years of my life living in a homeless shelter. The Levellers pretty much hit the nail on the head with this opening statement as let’s face it, Food, Roof and Family are all we really need. 'Generation Fear' is a hard-hitting punky song that appears to be about society breaking down and how no one seems to trust anyone these days. At two and half minutes it gets straight to the point. 'Four Boys Lost' is the first song of four songs sung by Simon Friend who brings a different flavour to The Levellers. This is what really sets the album apart from previous Levellers albums as usually you can count on two songs being sung by Simon and the rest by Mark Chadwick. 'Four Boys Lost' is one of the most folky songs on the album and it tells the tale of four young men who died in a boat accident in Scotland. Lyrically I don’t think anyone could have described what actually happened any better than The Levellers do here. This song is massive and the added instrumentation of the uilleann pipes take what is already a really great song and boots it well and truly into the stratosphere. The outro deserves to be heard live and I hope that one day I can see the guys play this. 'Four Boys Lost' is one of the album highlights and we are only three tracks into 'Peace'.
Where do you go after the opening three songs? Well in the case of 'Peace' you do something different and go in a totally new direction. 'Burning Hate Like Fire' has to be the most atmospheric song I’ve ever heard The Levellers play. This is a sad song that deals with mental health and as someone who has had way too many problems with my mental health I really relate to this song. The Levellers show in this song that they really know when to play, when not to play and do what is right for the song. There is an 80’s feel to this song and Matt Savage’s keyboards are very light. 'Born That Way' is an upbeat catchy song that is exactly what is needed after 'Burning Hate Like Fire'. It’s one of those songs that The Levellers write so well, great fiddle hooks courtesy of Jon Svenik, solid bass from Jeremy Cunningham and sing along choruses. 'Our New Day' bursts out of speakers and again we get a solid Punk song sung by Simon Friend. Simon snarls and sounds pretty angry throughout the song. The Levellers sound pissed off during this song, but it’s really about a message of hope. 'Calling Out' is another guitar heavy song sung by Simon about the monotony of living a mundane life in a dead end job and all the problems people face in that life.
This album really does feel different as so far there really isn’t the usual Folk/Acoustic songs that you normally get on a Levellers album it almost feels reminiscent of 1995’s Zeitgiest. If I’m honest, a lot of the lyrical content does capture the issues and feelings of life right now.
What was that I was just saying about this not really being a typical Levellers album and not really having acoustic based songs? 'Ghosts In The Water' is the perfect song after the last few punkier numbers. How to describe 'Ghosts In The Water'? The first thing that springs to mind is that it is such a sad song. The song is about how we as a species seem to be hell-bent on fucking our planet up. The melodies sung by Mark Chadwick pull some real emotional punches and if you listen to this on the wrong day, they have the potential to flat out make you cry. Matt Savage adds some beautiful touches on the keyboard and the rest of the band again let the song breathe when it needs to and don’t over play on this track. After the emotional ride of 'Ghosts In The Water' there really is only one place to go and that’s some snarling Levellers full on Punk. 'The Men Who Would Be King' starts off with guitar/drums and builds whist Simon Friend sings the last of the four songs he sings on his own. At this point you can feel something is about to happen, it can’t go on the same as it was, something has to give and then it happens. At 44 seconds you get The Levellers unloading, change the timing and really go for it. The chorus is the punkier side of The Levellers at their best. Charlie Heather finally lets loose with double kick drums and drives the chorus along with a ferocity not yet seen on this album. The Levellers aren’t really a band known for their use of double kick drums, in fact they rarely use it but when they do it definitely adds to the song. After the second chorus, the double kick drums carry the song pretty much, all the way through to the last 6 seconds of the song. It’s hard to believe that 'The Men Who Would Be King' is all over in two minutes, twenty seconds.
'Albion & Phoenix' features both Mark and Simon trading vocal lines as they reminisce about their past. This again is something different from the guys and it works really well in this song. Although parts of the song are about the past it also warns of the dangers of nostalgia. Musically it’s another catchy punky song. 'Our Future' starts off at least for the first ten seconds sounding like it’s going to be an Indian influenced song before turning into a Country hoedown. The Levellers mesh a few styles of music in this song. Lyrically it’s fairly obvious who the song is aimed at, especially with the line of “Since we entered the mad man’s dreams”. As an album closer it’s a very good choice and the song has a real message of hope.
The Levellers have always been at their best when they’ve been truly pissed off about something and have something to say. 'Peace' is the right album for the right time. Our world is a mess and this is a pretty good sound-track to it. The Levellers do proper albums, they don’t do a bunch of songs and filler, it’s a whole package and there has obviously been a lot of thought gone into the sequencing of the tracks on 'Peace' as it’s a “proper album”, you have to listen to the whole thing. These songs are not made for your digital playlists, they’re work of art, designed to be heard as an album.
'Peace' has some pretty heavy hitters to go up against with some of The Levellers previous works. I think it’s fair to say this might be the best thing The Levellers have done in nearly 25 years. Is it as good as 'Levelling The Land'? I’ll let you decide on that one. Will it last the distance in years to come against that album? Who knows, I hope so. What I do know with 'Peace; in that The Levellers have created a monster of an album that deserves full marks.
Website - https://www.levellers.co.uk/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/levellersofficial
Review - Aleutia Shannon