Release Date: March 29, 2011
Buy at your local independent record store or on iTunes
Swedish trio Peter, Bjorn, and John’s third full-length, Gimme Some, incorporates the ’60s and ’70s pop elements of the first album—organ-y keyboards and harmonious guest female vocals, like on the track “Money”—with less orthodox elements like whistling, shakers, and use of space with echoes on 2006’s Writer’s Block. It seems like this album should have come between their first LP, Falling Out (2005), and Writer’s Block. Starting with the anthemic “Tomorrow Has to Wait”, Gimme Some finds PB&J returning confidently to their pop roots after their darker, more experimental, less critically acclaimed Living Thing, which came out in 2008. The result is a compelling collection of catchy yet bitter and at times sarcastic songs driven largely by Peter Moren’s commanding lyrics and John Eriksson’s forceful drumming.
On this album, the band examines retro influences like the big, bombastic rock of U2 and even AC/DC on “(Don’t Let Them) Cool Off.” The double high hat that punctuates the song between verses recalls Molly Ringwald’s carefree dancing inThe Breakfast Club rather than the too-cool-for-school beat on PB&J’s most famous hit “Young Folks.” “(Don’t Let Them) Cool Off” highlights the band’s versatility with a mandolin that emphasizes, rather than minimizes, the song’s arena rock. Peter Bjorn and John also incorporate a variety of unconventional instruments on Gimme Some, which diversifies their style in subtle yet noticeable ways. The cowbell on “Second Chance,” provides the content behind the line, “it’s a fraction of the whole but it’s hard to control.” The cowbell may be a small part of the song’s makeup, but is nonetheless ever present. And no matter how the instrumentalist manipulates the cowbell, it will always sound the same.
The next track, “Eyes,” incorporates Afro-beat elements with handclaps, plucky guitars, and a sunny call-and-response melody. That song, along with surf-rock ditty “Dig a Little Deeper” (with bongos, whoa!) stand in stark contrast to songs like “Breaker Breaker” and “May Seem Macabre.” The first starts off with frenetic drumming similar to the beginning of “Young Folks.” But while those drums build to a crescendo, highlighting the excitement of a relationship’s honeymoon period, the drums introducing “Breaker Breaker” play down the beat, communicating Moren’s anger toward the woman who’s about to break his heart. That song defines the album’s preemptive aggression, which we hear over and over again in songs like the minute and a half-long ode to the Hives, “Black Book.” The lyrics are so fuzzed-out as to be indiscernible, but that doesn’t matter since the intermittent howls and stuttering, repetitive guitars tell the listener all they need to know. His lover has made it onto his hit list.
After that, the album turns confessional. On “Down Like Me,” even though he’s been singing about someone else on the rest of the album, Moren admits “no one brings me down like me.” That, coupled with the background echoes “down, down, down,” has the song spiraling downward and out of control. Reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, “Heroin”-esque guitar shredding toward the end of the song conjures drug abuse, leading the listener to wonder if perhaps addiction, not women, is the reason behind Moren’s self-loathing. Whether the problem is girls or drugs, the song’s slower tempo is a welcome break from the rampaging drums and guitar licks on the other tracks, and gives Moren’s angry lyric persona more depth. The following track, “Lies,” returns to the album’s previously established frenetic pace. It’s not a particularly memorable song and mostly acts as an unnecessary segue between “Down Like Me” and the more down-tempo final song on the album, “I Know You Don’t Love Me.” Exhausted from his extensive, embittered displays of emotion, Moren’s voice is dreamy and breathy, the rhythm hypnotic. The grammatically nonsensical and circular chorus “I know you don’t love me/ And all the reasons why I love you don’t love me” jars with the rest of the album’s direct, accusatory lyrics. At the same time, it brings the album full circle by capitalizing on Moren’s depression, as opposed to the anger expressed in “Down Like Me.”
Gimme Some is a sophisticated album with a beginning, middle, and definite end. Like Writer’s Block before it, which followed the beginning and end of a relationship, this record tells what happens after the end of a relationship. Each song is carefully arranged with lyrics mirroring the cadence of the vocals and instrumentation, rewarding the careful listener. With Gimme Some, Peter Bjorn and John have made it clear that they are capable not just of creating the perfect single (see “Young Folks”), but an album full of evocative songs that hold up on their own as well as part of a cohesive, well-timed album.
-Harley Brown | firstname.lastname@example.org
-Harley Brown | email@example.com