Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block
Mike Mantin 22/08/2006
Sweden's comma-phobic Peter Bjorn And John will probably be familiar to you as the makers of 'Young Folks', which will no doubt have soundtracked your summer in some way. You may even have a 'Young Folks moment', when this fantastic song first entered your world (mine is hearing it blasting out of a car as I stumbled into the Dour Festival). Recently awarded five gleaming stars on this site thanks to its obscene levels of cool and catchiness, like many massive debut hits it renders the album automatically disappointing. But even if nothing can hit that track's whistle-assited levels of joy, 'Writer's Block' can certainly not be accused of flogging its winning formula. It is, thankfully, an eclectic showcase of their pop knack in a number of guises rather than ten more songs to flesh out their signature track.
Their first album for new label Wichita, there are more than enough finely-crafted gems to keep Peter Bjorn And John on the radar for a while yet. They are already masters of indie-pop, adding shoegazy walls of noise to 'Objects Of My Affection' and writing lovelorn beauties like 'Paris 2004' ("I'm all about you/You're all about me/We're all about each other"), the kind of song so sweet and laid-back it's almost depressing to listen to at any time other than Summer. The balance is almost perfect in places, like 'Start To Melt''s girl-group lyrics and Spector-esque wall of sound, or 'Up Against The Wall''s gentle but emotive build-up into epic status. They've also developed a couple of trademarks, with a number of tracks featuring whistling tucked away amongst the noise (rather than centre stage), and Peter's achingly cool vocals, complete with elongated vowels, are pleasingly distinctive.
You've got to commend them for their craftmanship: this album is tailor-made to be instantly likeable (of course, anyone who buys it will have instantly been enchanted by 'Young Folks') but also, thanks to some surprisngly excellent lyrics and eclectic charm, ensure it'll sneak under your skin once you're past the stage of appreciating its overhwelming niceness. Where the similarly sunny Magic Numbers' lack of depth meant we all got bored of them after a couple of months, 'Writer's Block' will continue to surprise, ensuring it a place on a fair amount of Best Of 2006 lists. And when you finally manage get the unbearable catchiness of 'Young Folks' out of your head, you can enjoy a whole new set of tunes to fall in love with.