Indie band loses moment in spotlight
Indie rock group Peter Bjorn and John’s whistle-heavy “Young Folks” track is primarily the reason why people started listening to the band. It makes sense: An easy rhythmic beat sparkled with an addictive whistle section felt just right for the summer of 2006.
While no one had ever heard of the band before, “Young Folks” was a track from its third album, Writer’s Block. Now, PB&J are back with their fourth album. Titled Living Thing, the album attempts to reach the masses with a new sound by replacing the band’s previously frequent guitar sprawls with electronic beats and sounds instead.
Electric claps and bass spread throughout the aptly-titled first track, “The Feeling,” as the new feeling of these new tracks is incredibly different from the previous three albums. It feels as if the guitar has taken a complete backseat to these synthesizers and other electronic instruments.
Some would consider this new album a compliment to Kanye West’s release of 808s and Heartbreak, as they heavily depend on synthesizers.
However, this move could also be considered markedly different. West decided to try a completely different genre, while PB&J are seemingly making a bigger step in the ultimate direction of their career. Their hipster-like status is more attuned to Radiohead’s The Bends release, which brought Radiohead into a completely different direction than their previous “Creep” status.
While it would seem that PB&J’s release of this synthesizer-heavy fourth album is closer to The Bends than 808s and Heartbreak, Living Thing is as good as either album.
Synthesizer-heavy albums like 808s and Heartbreak and PB&J’s Living Thing require lyrics that are both interesting and catchy. While 808s flashed moments of beauty and simplicity in West’s singing debut, PB&J simply put very few beautiful or deep lyrics within the album.
Living Thing is a barren wasteland lyrically as it sings with heavy strokes of vague imagery that never quite desire the listener to project or think hard. It feels as if the band wasn’t able to come up with anything else to sing about, so lines and phrases are endlessly repeated throughout the entire album.
PB&J has an album that features some decent tracks, but around these tracks are dull pieces of electronic music with uninteresting lyrics that simply bore the listener.
“Lay It Down” is a catchy track that features an awkward mix of catchy music. The title track is the best upbeat song on the entire album, as it features a memorable chorus and interesting soundscape of plucking guitars, snare drum, and some background synthesizer work.
While “Living Thing” is a great track, the slower “4 out of 5” is the true gem of the album. Both the singer and the synthesizers work in tandem to create the type of song that this style of music demands. A lazy-sounding singer backed by repeating fuzzy guitar plucks and a nice and sparse beat offer up a hazy four minutes of heaven as the second to last track on the album.
PB&J may have hit the big time with their song “Young Folks,” but the band fumbled its moment in the spotlight by offering up an album that doesn’t quite lyrically and musically hold the listeners’ attention.
While Living Thing seemed to follow the trend of many of the big names in the music world by adapting more electronic instruments to their typical sound, a la West and Radiohead, PB&J does not attempt to change its way of creating record as both West and Radiohead had done with 808s and The Bends.
While there are some very good songs on Living Thing, Peter Bjorn and John’s fourth album is a dud, which will hopefully make the band realize that simply changing instruments without changing its approach to making music does not quite work. At least Living Thing won’t be as bad as this summer’s release of Lil Wayne’s rock album, although that isn’t saying too much.