Three friends Peter, Björn and John meet in Sweden and decide to form a band. Unsure of what to call themselves , they decide that their own names will do just fine. Look no further than this fact and you have captured the essence of Peter Björn and John, who will henceforth be adhered to as PBJ. A name that suggests extreme simplicity and some lack of true invention is echoed perfectly through their third LP Writer’s Block – a work that continues to promise without ever delivering.
A common trait is that each song on the LP takes one idea and extrapolates from that to make an entire song. The warm, jangling guitar sound of Objects Of My Affection is a definite highlight, but sticks rigidly to its drum beat, vocal hooks and melody. Vocalist Peter Moren, however, reminds us Just because something starts differently, doesn’t mean it’s worth less so any judgement may be postponed.
But the dragging continues; lead single Young Folks features the most irritating of all vocal creations, the whistle, and whilst being tuneful enough, is not sufficiently interesting to keep the listener hooked for over four minutes. Victoria Bergsman of The Concretes, whose indie-pop has clearly influenced PBJ no end, lends her vocals to this feel-good track but is unable to really inject much life into it.
Thankfully the lyrics of PBJ are an interesting listen, as demonstrated in the following track Amsterdam, which tells a story about the Dutch capital. The double-vocal effect bares comparison to White Album-era Beatles and the story Amsterdam was stuck in my mind is easy to follow, but despite piano, shakers and yet more whistling, the song is devoid of a catchy melody.
Moren re-assumes lead vocals with seven-minute track Up Against The Wall and his interjections are very welcome amidst a heavily-produced drum-beat, but his delivery never changes, which inevitably means that the track loses appeal very rapidly. At this stage the album may become irksome; as Paris 2004 quietly drifts by it is painfully clear that there is no deviation, variation or invention being shown within each track. As separate entities they have very different striking features, but none of them are quite good enough to hold up for the entire duration.
As you may expect, the ending of the LP follows the same trend. Let’s Call It Off presents an almost Brit-Pop feel, but never elaborates on this, and Roll The Credits builds invitingly to a crescendo before dying out completely. Truly a frustrating experience. Final acoustic track Poor Cow is an improvement with Moren’s anti-capitalist chorus I want to spend / In a never ending story / But it always ends but at nearly five minutes in length, it is laboured beyond measure.
Perhaps if each song were half the length, the fun, easy-listening element to PBJ’s music would be more clear-cut. As it is, Writer’s Block proves a real struggle; for listeners with great amounts of patience is may prove a real grower. Others may be bored to tears.