You walk out of a cool and quiet May evening and up into the baking loft of Hole In The Wall. The fairy lights entwining the flaking wooden beams bathe the room in a soft glow, and over the murmuring of the audience rises the lilting voice and whispering guitar of George Holman from Peacock Affect.
Peacock Affect’s The Rainbow EP, due for release on 24th June, demonstrates the broad reach of a young and ambitious musician. George is both multi-instrumentalist and misunderstood teenage lyricist; orchestrator of rich and complex soundscapes, and bedroom-studio producer. H’s an edgy young singer-songwriter, at home amongst the clatter and ale-reek of the local pub’s open mic night, and beleaguered, heart-broken old soul, pining for a long lost lover. So as you might imagine, The Rainbow EP seems to oscillate constantly between maturity and adolescence. Whilst listening to the carefully crafted rise and fall of A War In Venice or the dark descending arpeggios at the close of Untitled #1 you forget that this is a debut release. But when he tells us that he wants to fly away in a spaceship and escape “from all the idiots and all the trees and all the pet-lovers who eat meat” the spell is broken.
Firstly, the album is dark. Holman’s solipsistic desire for escape and solitude is redolent of some of the most depressing pop music of the last 15 years. For me, it brought to mind Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News. Yet, just as with other artists often labelled as depressing such as Radiohead and Coldplay, there is a sense of melancholia: a celebration of fragile beauty as well as a lament for its loss. The twinkling ukulele riff in A War In Venice and the spangly, reversed guitar melody in An Average Looking Room are joyous bursts of light which make the record far from monochrome.
The single Spaceship is the fusion of a fast, jangly, Everlong-style guitar, paired with the breathy, lachrymose vocals of Elliott Smith. The Elliott Smith influence reappears in the guitar/piano combination and waltz style of An Average Looking Room. Writing a waltz would seem to risk relying on what is today a relatively obscure form in pop music, but pleasingly the result is that the song is distinct and memorable. Many young musicians tend to produce EPs and LPs with songs of very similar instrumentation, very similar orchestration, very similar moods. The Rainbow, however, is a panorama of the sounds, styles, colours, and textures that Peacock Affect can offer.
A War in Venice best showcases the range of Holman’s musical abilities. The song opens with a lovely, ambient ukulele riff which swells throughout each verse into a densely layered string ensemble, then lulls back to the ukulele refrain. There are several nice melodies and motifs in the song, some of which repeat and some of which never reappear, make the song as relaxed and ethereal as the “floating balloons” the singer sees drifting above the “city of water”. The song is entirely dissimilar to everything else on a record already replete with dissimilarities, and is my personal highlight of the EP.
The best example of the conflict at the heart of this record is the lyrics, which can be both the most mature, and most adolescent part of the performance. Moments of originality and intrigue, such as “you do your best, but the world doesn’t make any sense to you: talking in letters”, sit in stark contrast to the emptiness of lines like, “let’s go to the seaside, let’s float in a boat outside. I wish I had something, and I wish I had someone.” In some ways though, the charm of the lyrics is their innocence and simplicity. In A War In Venice the singer tells us that they “never met someone so nice, who lives so far away.” Whilst certain lines still lack maturity, to some they may simply come off as cute rather than dissatisfying.
Ultimately it is the irreconcilable contrasts of the EP that make it interesting. The moments of maturity and insight are a delight when they come along (which they often do) and the moments of clichéd, teenaged angst, while far from highlights, are part-and-parcel of a young man’s bedroom record. The Peacock may not have shown the full lustre of its colours yet, but it certainly knows how to spread its wings.