Album Review : Peter Bjorn And John

Living Thing

Facts about this album:

* ‘Living Thing’ is Peter Bjorn And John’s fifth album.

* Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn And John also recently produced Lykke Li’s ‘Youth Novels’

Album review:

Well, look who it is: Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and their bald mate, John Eriksson. The chaps that bought you ‘Young Folks’, featuring the wayward, dulcet tones of Victoria Bergsman, formerly of The Concretes fame, and that jolly whistle that annoyed every fucker near you when your tone-deaf self tried to recreate it. A song that not only defined the summer of 2006, but managed to propel this Swedish trio from relative obscurity to Kanye West’s new favourite band, and yours too. Well, for a time, anyway.

Following their indie pop-drenched smash ‘Writer’s Block’ came the mostly instrumental and shamefully overlooked ‘Seaside Rock’, which dabbled in jazz-tinged soundscapes and themes revolving around their childhood. Since then the trio have been left to battle it out between the paths of pure pop ditties and oh-so-clever experimentalism. The realisation of these strivings is ‘Living Things’. Sadly, it seems that all that whistling has left the trio a little oxygen-deprived and light-headed. So much so that the combination of sleek ’80s drumbeats, synth-driven melodies and hollow production lies somewhere between a lacklustre Erasure and sheer tedium.

Such dreariness is most strongly exemplified by the softly-softly Paul Simon-esque vocal on ‘I Want You!’. The title track, too, parodies the illuminated guitars of ‘Graceland’ but sans the energetic finesse that Vampire Weekend are so adept at. Morén has the gall to assert, “You’ve got to keep me bothered/You’ve got to keep me awake”. If only he’d practice what he preached. Ironically ‘It Don’t Move Me’, reminiscent of ‘Danse Macabre’-era Faint, is probably the only track that is capable of waking your aural senses.

Ripping off – sorry, borrowing from – Justice’s kid-happy choruses on ‘Nothing To Worry About’ may appease the toe-tappers. However, the cynic would assume that sending the song to unlikely ally Kanye West for first listen at the beginning of the year (according to the hip-hopper’s blog) was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Unfortunately, whereas West declares that this “SHIT IS DOPE” (his caps lock, not ours), we feel duped.

In an attempt to purge themselves of the jaunty millstone that is ‘Young Folks’ and all the joyous indie pop that went along with it, PB&J have ended up with a purely draining effort. ‘Living Thing’ borders on the narcoleptic.

Ash Dosanjh

More on this artist:
Peter Bjorn And John NME Artist Page
Peter Bjorn And John MySpace