Peter Bjorn and John
Mar 28, 2011 Issue #35 - Winter 2011 - Death Cab for Cutie
Billed as a pop band, Peter Bjorn and John have always been more experimental than their banal name suggests. Having shot to popularity on the strength of 2006’s Writer’s Block and its ubiquitous single “Young Folks” (go ahead, take a moment to hum it now), they could have written their own ticket—if not into rock and roll history—then at least into a role as a modern-day Paul Simon for the hipster set. Instead they chose to veer into the abstract with 2008’s Seaside Rock, and weirdness with 2009’s Living Thing. Brave choices for a band that certainly has the talent to pump out a dozen more earworm-filled variations on “Young Folks.” Now on their sixth album and 12th year, PB&J has returned to the realm of spiky pop pleasures.
Neither a retread, nor a break for a completely new direction, Gimme Some vibrates with an almost manic need to prove itself. This dogged determination proves to be a mixed bag. An excess of energy is an asset on “Dig a Little Deeper”—a crisp, percussive track frosted with a series of bubbly “oohs” and “ahhs.” Having banned whistling from their repertoire, the band effectively embraces cowbell on “Second Chance.” Meanwhile, “Eyes” features one of the most likeable low-key jam sessions in recent memory—so well constructed it’s easy to forget that, yes, this is a jam.
The wheels come off PB&J’s effortless charm in token rockers “Black Book,” “Don’t Let Them Cool Off,” and “Lies.” All needless paint-by-number exercises, “Lies” features a painful chorus where Peter Moren’s charmingly off-kilter croon is stretched far past its breaking point. While admirably demonstrating that they’re no one trick pony, the album is plagued with moments so awkward it makes most first dates seem preferable—promises of pop pleasure be damned. (www.peterbjornandjohn.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 5/10