PEAKES – ” Peripheral Figures “

Posted: November 18, 2021 in MUSIC
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May be an image of 3 people, people standing and nature

Leeds trio Peakes carry the feat off their new album with aplomb. The band’s debut album ‘Peripheral Figures’ introduces Springsteen-esque gutsiness and a clubby sheen to their already expansive electro-pop DNA. 

John Cale once said he and Lou Reed followed a mantra of “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”. It’s clear that Peakes have been adhering to something similar. Their tunes usually hover around the three-minute mark and never outstay their welcome. Like all the best pop, with many of these songs there’s a little intro, the singing starts quickly, in comes the chorus and you’re out in less time than it takes to boil a crap kettle. For all the dreaminess conjured by the hazy washes of synthesizer and thick bass, there’s always an insistent backbeat and a big chorus to regiment the detachment. No messing about.

Weirdly, one thing that struck me about this record was the manner in which Peakes end their songs. There’s a great bit in Joe Thompson’s book ‘Sleevenotes’ where he encourages (“instructs” might actually be a more fitting word) live bands that “when your time is up, please stop”. The songs on ‘Peripheral Figures’ are great because they turn on a dime and end with a bang – no gauzy trails of feedback, no sizzling arpeggios that trail off for thirty seconds. Peakes’ songs stop dead. 

The moments where this album really flies are when Maxwell Shirley, Molly Puckering and Pete Redshaw look to the dancefloor rather than within for inspiration. A few of the tracks – ‘Day and Age’, ‘An Infinite Divide’, ‘Nameless Machines’ – have a real hands-aloft energy to them. ‘Day and Age’ in particular is an exhilarating highlight, with the track featuring a brilliant squealing, distorted synth line that works perfectly with the careening propulsion of the beat. I’m frequently reminded of New Order at their most anthemic.

The production is very well-rendered on ‘Peripheral Figures’. I love the way the bassline (a Roland 303?) in ‘Fascination’ flutters into view before disappearing, ditto the chewy bass in ‘Nameless Machine’ that’s redolent of ‘Silver Eye’-era Goldfrapp. The percussion consists of mostly live drums, a choice which provides a nice, organic counterpoint to the cyborgish electronics and Puckering’s vocals. 

This album sounds like Springsteen! I will explain. Peakes share that heart-on-sleeve chest-thumpingness with The Boss. Lyrics like “I can see my way through this clouded space between us” or “we all left behind, an infinite divide” have that kind of slogan-y, universally-applicable quality which means that they are just made to be belted out. Together with the driving rhythms, it all sounds like The Boss, Steven Van Zandt and the rest of the E Street Band got bang into eye shadow, drum machines and The Human League. 

‘Peripheral Figures’ is a cracking debut from Peakes. It has definable sound, and while ‘Peripheral Figures’ features some of the most boring song titles I’ve seen this year, there are some absolutely brilliant moments where the heady dynamism of the best electronic music is suffused with a wistful yearning.

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