Peter, Bjorn and John: Living Thing (Album Review)
The whistling got all the attention on Peter Bjorn and John’s 2007 album, “Writer’s Block,” but the real heart of the record was the sturdy rhythm that propelled every track — including “Young Folks,” the one with the whistling.
Rhythm plays an even larger role on the Swedish trio’s follow-up, “Living Thing” (Almost Gold). It’s almost like a gravitational pull, with the songs pulled through their orbits by metronomic cadences at various speeds.
The drum beats have a pulsing, electronic feel, supplemented by a methodical tikka-tokka bass line on “Just the Past” and clanking with an industrial edge on “Lay It Down.”
It’s more than just drums: The trio employs melodic instruments in service of rhythm, too, with terse guitar chords echoing the beat on “I’m Losing My Mind.” Scratchy guitar blends with drums, synthesizers and chanting vocals on the Paul Simon-style polyrhythm of the title track, while a blowzy, thumping piano deepens the backbeat on “It Don’t Move Me.”
Most of the melodies here come through the trio’s vocals, which create a compelling musical tension as Peter Moren sings plaintive lyrics in a voice swathed in reverb on “Just the Past” and in the children’s choir that augments the chorus on “Nothing To Worry About.”
Sometimes the tunefulness gets lost, though. The vocals come in a robotic monotone on “I’m Losing My Mind,” and there’s not much holding together all the rhythm on the opener, “The Feeling.” It just shows that finding the right mix between melody and rhythm is a delicate balance, but these dozen tunes strike it more often than not.