Peter Bjorn and John – Living Thing

Red Ink

The folks behind young folks refuse to repeat themselves — even if it means avoiding hooks altogether.

Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John’s first album since their commercial breakthrough Writer’s Block could be seen as a deliberate attempt to prove that they have too much artistic integrity to repeat their sole hit “Young Folks.” Unfortunately it’s not clear if the band is trying to be noble or if they’ve just lost their ability to craft a decent song. Down-tempo and drum-machine heavy Living Thing shows that PB&J still maintain an interesting approach to pop music but the album sounds sadly half-baked.

While a couple of songs have a stripped-down intimacy that’s quite striking much of Living Thing is so dreary that it’s almost unlistenable. It’s as if PB&J came up with a few strong ideas but didn’t bother finishing the songs. It’s nice to see a band shying away from the lure of repeating a hit but it wouldn’t have killed them to write a solid melody or two.