Review: Peter, Bjorn & John – ‘Gimme Some’

Peter Bjorn and John Gimme SomeSweden’s presence on the world’s musical landscape is one that is criminally undervalued. The unofficial ambassadors of Swedish music are undoubtedly Abba, yet there is a wealth of talent that the country has pumped into the industry, a contribution which is still prevalent today. The Hives, Mando Diao, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, The Knife, The Cardigans, Robyn and Jose Gonzales all hail from this corner of the globe. Peter Bjorn and John also rub shoulders with this growing list of artists that have conquered the mainstream, mainly thanks to their breakthrough hit ‘Young Folks‘. There is also a very active heavy metal scene which draws appreciation and accolade worldwide, if that’s your sort of thing.

Peter Bjorn and John became a household name when ‘Young Folks‘ was released in 2006; the song that everyone seems to have beeen whistling along to ever since. Its blend of folk, pop and a hook so simple, yet so ridiculously catchy, resulted in the birth of an anthem. By then, they were on to their third album ‘Writers Block‘, and have since kept themselves busy, refusing to rest on the laurels of their new-found success. The albums that have followed, ‘Seaside Rock‘ and ‘Living Thing‘, have not had the same level of impact, yet they remain credible, and new record ‘Gimme Some‘ is another respectable addition to their catalogue.

Gimme Some‘ opens with the call-to-arms celebration of ‘Tomorrow Has To Wait‘, boasting a rousing singalong, crashing drums and a joyful optimism. Much like many of their tracks, it clocks in at just under three minutes. It is admirable to think that they could have milked this dry by making it sound even bigger and adding at least another two minutes onto its length, yet they’ve understated it to great effect, keeping it neat and tidy and leaving you wanting more. ‘Dig aLittle Deeper‘ sounds like their answer to Vampire Weekend, a breezy pop number with South American influenced drum patterns and snappy, sharp melodies. Rarely are there any particularly heavy moments on the album, though ‘Black Book‘ steps up the pace with its rapid drumming and angular guitar licks.

With lead single ‘Second Chance‘, they demonstrate their ability to pen a track that could rapidly fill a dancefloor with people like flies on shit. “You can’t count count on a second chance, but a second chance will never be found” sings vocalist Peter Moren, ironically to an upbeat tune that contrasts its negative lyrical subject content of mistakes and regret. There is a melancholy quality laid bare in Moren’s vocals, suitably fitted to the jaunty radio-friendly pop music that this album is awash with. He can be likened to Cold War Kid‘s Nathan Willett, sharing that same gentle delivery and boyish charm about his voice.

There are moments on the album where they loosen up and distance themselves from the upbeat mood usually embraced. ‘Down Like Me‘ is borderline moody and soldiers on with a repetitive bassline and some impressively emotive guitar work, much more Sonic Youth than 60’s new wave pop, sharing similarities with previous album ‘Living Thing‘, itself a much more downbeat and experimental affair.

(Don’t Let Them) Cool Off‘ is a contender for single of the year and saves ‘Gimme Some‘ from being just another Peter Bjorn and John album. It showcases a direction not present on the rest of the record, with a slightly darker feel more in common with ‘Down Like Me‘. What makes it stand out are its versus which showcase a sexier side to their sound, reminiscent of The Raveonettes. Its chorus, which will run laps around your head, adds the essential ingredient needed to form this near-perfect, sassy pop song.

Gimme Some‘ is an accessible pop record that keeps up Peter Bjorn and John’s trend of writing gleefully happy, sharp, catchy pop songs with breezy production. There is light and shade on the album, though far less of the latter, and this does give the record another layer, breaking it up nicely. They remain that cool indie folk pop band from Sweden, and ‘Gimme Some‘ will do no damage to this reputation – in essence its a Swedish delight. Peter Bjorn and John, thank you for the music, indeed.

(Matt Humphrey)

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