Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some

03/30/2011 4:00 AM |

Peter Bjorn and John
Gimme Some

(StarTime International)

There was a neat little trick that Peter Bjorn and John pulled off on their 2007 breakthrough album, Writer’s Block, and it wasn’t necessarily the whistling. It was the 11 other tracks that came bundled with “Young Folks”: not a single throwaway in the bunch. Most were sad-eyed and sweet, aligned with the band’s Swedish pop lineage to some degree but also scattered across the board stylistically. Two years later came their next proper album, Living Thing, a record so coolly detached and hollow-sounding that it every second seemed to scream, “We’re not aiming for “Young Folks 2.” Gimme Some attempts to recharge and recast the band again, it’s just difficult to tell as what exactly.

The album begins in a far different place than where it ends. If it weren’t for “Young Folks,” Gimme Some opener “Tomorrow Has to Wait” would take the title as most irresistible PB&J track ever, in which a life-affirming Peter pounds out the line, “It’s the time of your life, so tomorrow has to wait” against anthemic drums and swelling crescendos fit to soundtrack a fleeting moment of youth. Fast-forward to the equally well-executed “I Know You Don’t Love Me” that brings the album to a close. Here, they sound like they belong on Woodsist’s roster, with enough reverb to make Peter sound like he’s in quicksand, as a creepy, twangy guitar line echoing throughout. In between the two tracks is such a wide range of genres, from dancey numbers to downbeat bummers, it’s almost as if the band were throwing random darts at the board, hoping for one to hit the bullseye. And while more than a handful do—like the Elvis Costello-indebted “Breaker Breaker” or the power-pop surge “Dig a Little Deeper”—others don’t.

Those that come up short are spoiled more by seeming disingenuousness than by a lack of songwriting craft, though. “Black Book” sounds like the equivalent of a salesman trying to sell the listener on heavy, rapid-fire guitars; “Second Chance” comes with a wink and a swagger. First they cared, then they didn’t, and now they can’t make up their mind. They might not want to hear it, but it’s clear that the careful twee they employed in 2007 is what suits them best. Gimme Some more of that please.