November 27, 2007

PB&J’s tumbling, rumbling pop set

It begins with a tumble of drums before a steady, regular beat kicks in. And then, the whistling: a happy, jaunty, old-timey novel sound that seems amusing at first but becomes an integral part of the listening experience. Vocals trade off between an accented male and a female who sounds like she’s been awakened from a Quaalude binge. Pure pop perfection ensues.It’s “Young Folks,” the lead single from Peter Bjorn & John’s 2006 LP Writer’s Block, and it became quite the ubiquitous earworm last year, finding its way into umpteen television commercials, movie soundtracks, prime time programs and, yes, even the radio. As if that wasn’t enough, the song’s crude yet charmingly animated video went viral, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re not trying very hard.But wait, there’s more. Turns out PB&J are no one-hit wonders (yet). Writer’s Block is solid and well-crafted, the band’s third overall release but the first to receive worldwide distribution. The band, which features Peter Moren, Bjorn Yttling and John Eriksson, hails from Sweden, a nation with a surprisingly high number of quality musical acts to its credit.“Sweden has always had lots of bands and music,” Moren says via telephone. “There were a lot of indie bands in the ’90s — that’s who we liked — but even back in the ’60s and ’70s, there were diverse bands … It wasn’t all ABBA. Plus, a lot of the British rock bands would tour Sweden, like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin.”PB&J are much more Beatles than Led Zeppelin. Their tunes are crazy melodic and feature numerous flourishes and twists that are distinctive without being ostentatious. But then, there is that whistling, which, in addition to providing “Young Folks” with its hook, is also used as a subtle undertone in “Objects of My Affection” and in a prominent role in “Amsterdam.”“What we did with this album is, if we used a musical element in one song, we tried to use it on at least two other songs,” Moren says. “We didn’t want it to sound to jarring or hokey if we just had certain elements only in one song.”The best song on the album is “Up Against the Wall,” a droning, mid-tempo number that reminds me of New Order. Moren likes the tune, too, although he doesn’t think New Order was a direct influence on it.“With that one, I think the New Order part might come from the fact we used a drum loop instead of real drums for the track, which give it kind of a dancy feel,” he says. “When we play it live, we stretch it out and it gets very trancelike and jammy.”But it all comes back to “Young Folks,” which, like it or not, will probably be this band’s signature song. When performing the tune live, Moren sings all the parts. “But sometimes if there’s a girl in the opening band, or maybe a girl in the audience who knows the words, we can play it closer to the record.”  Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.comPeter Bjorn & John w/ The Besnard LakesFriday, Nov. 30Headliners Music Hall1386 Lexington Road584-8088$15; 9 p.m.18+