Total Pageviews

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some (Release Date: 3-29-2011)

        To be perfectly honest, I'm getting pretty sick of writing intro after intro about one band after another trying to live up to a past success. In this month alone, I've covered new discs by Lupe Fiasco, The Dodos, The Strokes, and Bibio, all artists who recorded their new album under the weight and shadow of some previous accomplishment. Thank God for next week, which will cover new works from both Panda Bear and TV on the Radio, two artists whose numerous successes have ensured that no single LP or song will ever swallow up their career. The same cannot be said of Peter Bjorn and John, the Brit-Poppers behind 2006's summer smash-hit single Young Folks (cue the whistling). Somehow that catchy single failed to elicit much excitement for the album that contained it, a tough break considering Young Folks was only the tip of the catchy, gorgeous, and fun ice burg that was Writer's Block. Now five years removed from their almost-break-through, an instrumental album and a total dud in 2009's Living Thing passing the intermittent years, the trio returns for another try at stardom.

        If ever an opening number gave one hope that a band might return to form, it's Gimme Some's track uno, Tomorrow Has to Wait. A single guitar note ushers us in before pounding drums and distant chants make it clear that this one is headed for epic territory. The intro doesn't lie, as the chorus opens up and balloons into something enormous. It's the kind of jumbo-sized ear-worm that would get tiring if it was all the album had to offer, but as an opener, THtW shows the lofty and poppy aspirations that these boys are working with, and it looks good on them. It's far and away the grandest and most golden tune on the album, but the sing-a-long fun is far from over.

        Follow-up Dig a Little Deeper could be viewed as a bit of a cheese-fest, but it's hard to be too against something that you simply can't help but sing along with, especially when said tune comes equipped with a killer-fun bongo bridge. Rounding out the first act of Gimme Some is Second Chance, the album's first single and first journey into a darker sort of sound. The song is more pounding than it is bouncy, vocals suddenly stuck in a monotone pitch, giving the whole thing a gloomier, more intense feel. But as anyone who heard Writer's Block knows, these guys are true pop craftsmen, and the more over-cast tint becomes them almost as much as their cheerier tunes. Three tracks deep, Gimme Some is looking like a triumph, even if a slightly modest one in the face of their best material.

        Then comes the middle section, which isn't so much bad as it is seemingly uninspired. Both Eyes and Breaker Breaker are enjoyable, hummable little ditties in their own right, the latter skewing much faster and punkier than we've come to expect from these guys, but neither sticks in your head for long after you've heard them. Perhaps even more so than the club-friendly jams that mainstream radio usually deals in, Peter Bjorn and John trade in a style of music where in your song is only as good as the hours that it bounces around in your listeners' heads afterwards. The aforementioned tracks, as well as May Seem Macabre, are certainly nothing that require the speedy use of the skip button, but none of them create that kind of must-listen-to-this-NOW urgency that good Pop music is all about. To make matters worse, they're followed by a trio of tunes which rank as the disc's bottom three. (Don't Let Them) Cool Off uses voice manipulation to a remarkably bland end, Black Book goes down the same pseudo-Punk Rock alley as Breaker Breaker, but with much less merry-making results, and Down Like Me is just a plain snoozer.

        And then, just as quickly as it fell apart, the three-piece puts it back together for Gimme Some's final two tracks. Lies is zippy and chaotic, all while staying perfectly under control. The song is fiery, rambunctious, and jovial all at once, making it seem like the perfect closer before you get a load of the ticking time bomb that is I Know You Don't Love Me. At 5:38, the tune weighs in nearly a whole minute longer than GS's second lengthiest track, but it's also the only one that really makes you wait for it, building on the wings of a tight, hyper-kinetic weaving of drums and bass. Two minutes pass before the song opens up into chorus chants of its own name, the build-up paying off in spades. Tension isn't really something that PB&J really specialize in, but you wouldn't know it hearing this one, powered through its lengthy mid-section by a guitar solo that is as snarling and fierce as these guys get (which really isn't that snarling or fierce, I guess, but it sounds good). It's quite the irony that I more or less declared these guys dead after an album entitled Living Thing, but Gimme Some puts those fears to rest. It might not be Writer's Block exactly, but it gamely suggests that these guys might some day return to those heights, and on a few occasions, it actually sees them all the way there.

Grade: B-

No comments:

Post a Comment