It’s not all fun and games for Peter Bjorn and John, even if a sugary current does run through most of the band’s past music. After all, breezy indie-pop hits like “Young Folks” don’t exactly inspire tears, with their laid-back beats and whistling, and it’s hard to listen to the lonely sentiments of a talking painting in “Blue Period Picasso” without smiling — no matter how bummed the piece of art is about being stuck to a wall. Even the melancholy lyrics of Writer’s Block’s “Let’s Call it Off” are overshadowed by bliss, as the story of a prematurely failed relationship is no match for the song’s clapping and bouncy beat. Still, the Swedish trio is capable of writing music with touches of pain and heartache, even deeper than a piece of art whose “solitude is bringing (it) down.”

Peter Bjorn and John

Gimme Some
Startime

Gimme Some is proof of the band’s edgy potential. While many of the tracks are coated in sweetness, their lyrics and styles reveal a darker side we haven’t yet seen from the musicians, as they are more serious than was shown by the angsty verses about fading smiles and holding hands in “Teen Love.”

It’s easy to be fooled by the opening track’s peppy front, but feelings of misfortune brew beneath the energetic guitars and melodic chorus on the surface of “Tomorrow Has To Wait.” Unlike past PB&J work, the song’s darker tones stand out from its upbeat sound. Somber lyrics poke through even its most vibrant drum beats, honest and bold as they chant, “I don’t think that you are sorry for what you did.” The contrast between the happy sound and not-so-positive lyrics is daring, but it works: Instead of detracting from the song’s meaning, the cheerful instruments emphasize the crappy state of the vocalist’s love life.

Even songs with cowbell and clapping aren’t free from the album’s thoughtful hues. “Second Chance” bubbles with energy and funk, but its springy instrumentals are clouded with gloom as the vocalist describes a person whose perfect world is crumbling. The track is rich in emotion and honesty, despite its lively sound and addictive energy.

PB&J’s mature messages shine when they’re surrounded by blissful beats, but things get murkier in songs that were written to sound serious. “Black Book” is one of these failed attempts: The track may be about political problems in Sweden, but the grown-up meaning is all but lost in its pseudo-punk style. Raw guitars and distorted vocals are more unnatural and distracting than thought provoking, putting the song on the same level as a teenage garage band. Sure, there are plenty of hormones and critiques of “the man,” but it’s impossible to take seriously.

Peter Bjorn and John have come a long way since their easy days of bongo beats and whistling. Despite a few punk hiccups, Gimme Some delivers the richness and maturity we’ve been waiting to hear from the Swedish trio. It’s a welcomed transition into adulthood for a band that’s been around since the late ’90s — hey, the guys couldn’t stay “young folks” forever.

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