Review: PEACH’s Self-Titled Debut Album

PEACH’s self-titled album is remarkably cohesive for a debut, in part because it isn’t really one. The Bristol-based punk foursome each boast years of experience in past projects, and as PEACH they have already begun to make a name for themselves in the local scene.

Little wonder then that their first album exhibits the control and vision of veteran rockers while still feeling raw and abrasive. From the first moments of the opening track Dread, an atonal storm of rolling drums and thunderous guitar, PEACH is a release of frustration tied together by Ellie Godwin’s spirited vocal performance.

There’s an impressive amount of control on display in the album’s noisy instrumentation, as drummer Andy Sutor and guitarists JP Jacyshyn and Tim Cooke are constantly shifting time signature and deploying new riffs and elements, bucking the listener back and forth.

As the album hits its stride, PEACH even subverts expectations with quiet, restrained moments on songs like Long Mover and I’m Scared. The latter plays with this contrast exceptionally well, operating almost like a Venus fly trap that opens up to draw the listener in only to snap shut around them.

Godwin herself gets many opportunities to show her talents as a vocalist, and delivers an impressively ranged performance: at times vulnerable, guttural, harsh, and cynical. The climax of the penultimate track Settle Down is a showpiece for her, the song breaking into a liberated wailing almost-Arabian riff.

"a cathartic listen, a release of complex and anguished emotions"

The intensity of this project does sometimes come at the cost of clarity, particularly due to PEACH’s decision to record the entire set live to tape. This does give the project a distinctive feel, and there’s a fizzing simultaneity to the resultant sound; the fuzz of static can be heard underneath the music, as can the soft breathing of the artists and the hums of their sound systems.

However, in the resultant mix, Godwin herself is often left fighting to be heard over her bandmates. There are many songs where the clarity of the words is lost, and while this may be true to the feeling of a live session, it becomes an obstacle to the album telling a clear story. Ultimately, the listener is left with a much stronger impression of how the album feels than what it actually says.

What we do hear of Godwin’s lyrics is blunt and scowling. Her lyrics throughout PEACH play with the tension of wanting to connect with others while also not trusting them, having been hurt before too many times. On songs like Bad Touch Godwin acknowledges the unfairness that she has to continue with her day after being harassed and violated, and on Dread her opening refrain ‘respect costs you nothing’ bemoans the incapability of others to show her that respect despite it being so easy to do.

With this context, the heavy instrumentation acts as a ball of energy within her, pushing outwards at the world as she yells “How dare you pull that face at me, commenting on what you deem disgraceful”. This reclamation is empowering, but it also leaves Godwin’s character extremely vulnerable, longing to open up: in her words, “I want to get to know you now, but I’m scared”.

This tension is expressed in the project but ultimately left unresolved, instead collapsing back in on itself in the swirling closer track Thousand Hands. PEACH does not claim to be able to square these conflicting needs: instead, the album is a defiant expression of both, repeating each verse over and over in a neurotic wracking of the brain. The result is a cathartic listen, a release of complex and anguished emotions that can yet still be set aside by the album’s close.

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