Album Reviews

Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some

on March 30, 2011, 7:59am
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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.  Now, two years later, the trio return with Gimme Some, a punk record that transmogrified itself into a pop-rock effort fueled by many drunken nights. Sure, stripping down and returning to the formula that made you famous is the worst of all musical cliches, but at least they got themselves a damn catchy record out of it.

Constantly bringing up the merits of “Young Folks” may be the kind of thing to drive our favorite Swedes crazy, but from listening to this record, you can tell they respect their massive international mega-hit and want to make more music like it. However, they’ve modified the context in which they do, going for a simple, edgier vibe when making pure pop magic. “Tomorrow Has to Wait” feels like the most direct line back to their past successes; droning vocals and a rhythmic drumbeat are the new whistling, with the hook of “I don’t think that you are sorry for what you did” drilled into the listener almost as efficiently. “Dig a Little Deeper”, their existential manifesto on the nature of creativity, features a particularly catchy guitar line and some of their trademark “Ohh ohh” vocal melodies. Here, the band are clearly facing their past and ensuring us of their intent, singing, “You think you’ve got it made/I’m trying to have some fun/You think you know it all/I’ve only just begun,” as if to tell their fans and critics to watch them now.

That motif takes a unique spin on “Second Chance”. This time around, a fairly stock rock guitar line gets dressed up with some cowbell. The lyrical aim, however, gets a bizarro-Freudian spin, where the band almost take a step back from themselves to portray an all-too-common rock and roll scene of self-conformity: “You stick to what you knew before/Don’t know what you like/Just played up your mind/The picture still hangs on the wall/From back in the day/When you had it all.” They end their tale with the chorus/words of wisdom of “You can’t can’t count on a second chance/Cause second chance will never be found.” By raising these points, they’re attempting to explore the whole notion of creative growth and continual self-improvement as an artistic entity and its impact on the creator, which demonstrates their maturity as self-aware writers/performers.  However, they circumvent all this mess with a fairly punk attitude of “go for broke because you only get one shot in life.”

Those tracks as a whole are the core of the album and the clear focus for those trying to dissect where the band are in their career arc. But two other tracks tell the rest of the story in a less pseudo-intellectual way. “(Don’t Let Them) Cool Off” is one of the more immediately pleasing cuts on the record. Dire Straits-esque in its nature, the song is a big rock ode to never giving in and powering through the hype and BS to continually create and produce music. It’s seemingly one of the more complicated tracks on the album, yet completely free and breezy with its sing-song vocals and multiple guitars. If there’s one iota of Living Thing left in the band, though, fans can find it in the album-closing “I Know You Don’t Love Me”. Even still, they’ve taken that moping and amped it up thanks to a rumbling rhythm like a walk down a deserted highway and a spark of life in an explosive chorus, all without taking away from the stoic energy they use to sing about being unloved. The sentiments of these tracks are the most straightforward on the record, thus making them the most pop-rock friendly. However, they’re also less cerebral and more experimental in nature, which only further complicates them. Again, chalk it up to the boys doing what they can to be themselves without totally abandoning a healthy sonic curiosity.

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