Release Date: Mar 29, 2011
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Swedish Pop/Rock
The adorably wimpy Swedes' whistled 2006 focus track, "Young Folks," suggested sensitive boy-children who would have a hard time lifting guitars, let alone rocking out on them. But Peter Bjorn and John's sixth disc is pretty mannish, a foray into Seventies English punk rock, early U2 and R.E.M. anthemics, arena-drum bombast and a cowbell-happy jam their fan Kanye West could flow over.
I consider myself fortunate in that I managed to catch Peter Bjorn and John perform live on the tail end of their Writer’s Block tour in 2008 when I was living in Toronto, Canada. It was a wild and energetic set, although some Torontonians at the club that night, being the snobbish and cold sort that Torontonians can be at times, headed for the exits once the trio performed their “hit” halfway through—that hit being “Young Folks”. It’s really too bad, because these folks missed what was the definite highlight of the night.
Back in 2006, this Stockholm trio landed an oddball hit with ”Young Folks,” a beguiling pop stomper that did more for the human whistle than every episode of Lassie combined. Although they’ve dropped two full-lengths since then, PB&J haven’t recaptured that ubiquity. But Gimme Some, their sixth album, is crammed with winsome tunes. The cowbell-addled opener ”Second Chance” dismisses the past, while punk outbursts like ”Breaker Breaker” look toward a scrappier future.
Long before they were a band, Swedish indie-pop hipsters Peter Morén, Björn Yttling, and John Eriksson were just three songwriters and soundmakers, bashing around classic pop forms, trying to find something that sounded cool. And today, even though they record and tour as Peter Bjorn and John (or PB&J if you really want to go there), they’re still less of a power trio than a triple-threat of modern pop songcraft. These guys know how tunes work, and they know how to craft one from the inside out.
PETER BJORN & JOHN Gimme Some. Peter Bjorn & John play Lee's Palace on May 6. See listing. Rating: NNNN When Young Folks, the infectious single from Peter Bjorn & John's 2006 album, suddenly blew up, the Swedish trio responded to the pressure with a complete left turn into dark synth pop. The band ….
Peter Bjorn and John had a typical indie rock reaction to the demands and trappings of success that “Young Folks” brought them. They went dark and weird, first recording an arty instrumental album, then returning with Living Thing, which was almost too experimental and abstract. They must have thought so, too, because on Gimme Some, things have brightened considerably, with arrangements dominated by guitars, plenty of uptempo tracks, and an overall energy that was missing from the last album.
When the Swedish threesome Peter Bjorn & John released Writer’s Block (2006), the band looked like world beaters. The album captured everything that was good in new millennium indie rock and wrapped it up into a neat little package including the unforgettable, if ubiquitous, single ‘Young Folks’. Who could forget that virtuoso whistling? After touring worldwide on the strength of the album, spreading the gospel of Scandinavian pop, the band earned a tidy following of fans eager for an encore to the perfectly poppy Writer’s Block.
Did someone lock these Swedes in a room full of beer, old punk albums and motivational posters about pop music? It took a while for my brain to wrap itself around Peter Bjorn and John’s latest to understand what they were aiming for. Heavy drums and catchy guitar riffs complimented by the sweet voice of Peter Morén reveal a new dimension to the group—and might prove these boys are something more than a pseudo-rocking band of indie darlings. Gimme Some surfaces from more of a basic power trio sound without straying too far from indie-pop roots.
Some bands struggle their entire careers to get out from under the shadow of one great single. In the popular imagination, that might be the case for Peter Bjorn and John-- three affable Swedish popsters doomed to be forever remembered for one damnably catchy whistle. But such a reading would be to forget that "Young Folks", with all its whistling and bongos and Victoria Bergsman verses, came surrounded by an album of other outstanding pop songs.
After the mixed effort that was 2009’s Living Thing, Peter Bjorn and John seem to have rediscovered some of their lost groove on their sixth album, Gimme Some. If nothing else, the Swedish trio is having fun again, and it’s precisely because they’ve abandoned any heavy-handed attempts at replicating the mainstream-straddling success of Writer’s Block. Ironically, this leaves listeners with the group’s most accessible record to date, as PB&J’s natural disposition is toward power-pop songwriting and impeccably slick production.
If Peter Bjorn and John's 2009 album, Living Thing, was the sound of a band beating a belligerently experimental retreat from the mainstream, its follow-up suggests they have decided the mainstream isn't such a bad place after all. Gimme Some is, accordingly, a pop record through and through – albeit a spiky one in places, unsettled by the aggressive guitars of (Don't Let Them) Cool Off and surprisingly abrasive lyrics to Black Book ("Your music sounds like shit") and Breaker Breaker. Even at its most jagged, however, Gimme Some comes across as power-pop by numbers, the effortlessness with which the Swedish trio spin cheerful melodies and ineffable hooks making almost every song sound uncomfortably derivative.
Order a copy of Peter Bjorn and John’s ‘Gimme Some’ from Amazon.
When a band reaches a certain stale (or static) point in their career, which is usually right after they release a disappointing or ho-hum album, they enter into the studio and re-emerge months later and start telling everyone they’re getting back to basics. After 2009’s Living Thing, whose drum machine beats and darker emotional content received generally positive reviews but confused fans expecting another “Young Folks”, Peter Bjorn and John took stock of what was really important for LP No. 6.
Peter Bjorn and John have been together since 1999, and they’re still going strong. On fifth LP Gimme Some, the Swedish trio has stripped down their sound, and their brand of indie rock has never sounded fresher. These days, “minimalist” tends to refer to lo-fi garage rock. However, Peter Bjorn and John have truly reduced their sound down to its vital parts.
The key to Gimme Some's success is the art of keeping things simple. Michael Cragg 2011 Chances are if you happen to have a Peter Bjorn and John single on your iTunes it's 2006's Young Folks, a deliriously catchy, Victoria Bergsman-assisted indie anthem with added whistling solo. It was the moment the three titular Swedes (Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson) announced themselves to the mainstream (the song now appears in a Homebase advert).