On Second Thought: Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some (2011)

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Many folks (and not just “Young Folks”) ended up hearing the biggest hit single to feature whistling since maybe Mitch Miller’s theme from “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” To be fair, there was a lot more going on in Peter, Bjorn and John’s breakthrough, 2006’s Writer’s Block, than just the song that launched a thousand licensing fees.

PB&J’s third LP was richly varied and adventurous guitar pop, its bright surface masking mournful, even morose concerns. Still, it came as a surprise when the proper follow-up, after the experimental instrumental Seaside Rock disc, was 2009’s icily distant Living Thing. The guitars were mostly ditched, and the results strayed into the glacial soundscapes mapped out by fellow Swede Karin Dreijer’s Fever Ray.

PB&J regained their impeccable pop smarts on 2011’s Gimme Some. Bjorn Yttling, the B of PB&J, produced and co-wrote songs for Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes So it’s fitting that the tribal percussion and garage rock sensibility of Li’s “Get Some” spills over to PB&J’s Gimme Some. The percussive opening cut “Tomorrow Has to Wait” includes a call and response chorus worthy of a ’60s girl group, then caps it with a psych guitar line straight out of “Pictures of Matchstick Men”. The Afro-popisms of “Dig a Little Deeper” sound like Vampire Weekend after they’ve grown a pair. And the chunky bass anchoring the album’s moody centerpiece “May Seem Macabre” is brightened with chiming guitar.

When Peter, Bjorn and John bring on the cowbell for the ridiculously catchy “Second Chance,” it’s hard to deny that every cut on Gimme Some is a keeper. The boys also throw in “Breaker Breaker” and “(Don’t Let Them) Cool Off,” two brief and punchy motorik driven pop rockers to seal the deal. Indeed, there’s so much rapid fire pop rockin’ going on, that you’d think these guys were possessed by the Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers.

Gimme Some is as good as guitar pop gets. And if the commerce gods were truly just, this would have been as big as PB&J’s commercial peak Writer’s Block. Alas, there’s nothing here to match the oddball charm of “Young Folks.” But if you find yourself missing that single’s jaunty hook, you can always do your own whistling while listening to this underrated disc.

You know how to do that, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.

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Patrick Moran

Patrick Moran

Chicago native Pat Moran is a filmmaker who has produced and written five feature films, and served as producer and editor for Western Classics, a film series hosted by actor James Best. He also writes about music for Creative Loafing Charlotte. The best job title he ever had was "part-time vampire." Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Patrick Moran
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