Living Thing is Peter, Bjorn, and John’s fifth studio album. It was released stateside in late March of 2009 on Almost Gold Recordings. Reviews were varied but leaning toward favorable.
When it comes to Peter, Bjorn, and John, I am torn. Or should I say tjorn. No… I shouldn’t. I’m sorry. I don’t think that they take themselves seriously enough. I like that they’re light hearted and fun, but I hate that they’re so light hearted and fun. That’s my way of saying I don’t like their selection of singles. I find that their B-sides are far too enjoyable to be B-sides and their singles are always bubbly and stereotype PB&J unjustly. I never put that PB&J thing together before. Coincidence, or planned name arrangement? Interesting. I wonder where Swedes stand on crust v. no crust. Probably neutral.
Despite my wavering on PB&J, I love Living Thing. It strikes a lovely balance. The tone here is unique among their albums. Living Thing sounds like a dance party in a cave with only a small set of computer speakers. It’s sparse in all the right places, while still being fun and quirky. There’s a lot of silence on the disc. The space between, as Dave Matthews might put it, is just as crucial to the songs as the actual musical bits. It had to take some faith in their fans to let this one loose on ’em. First impressions were probably quite unsettling amongst the following bunch.
Let there be no misunderstandings, singles “Nothing To Worry About” and “It Don’t Move Me” are standard PB&J fare, albeit with a slight twist. So much so that the former is almost worth calling “Amsterdam Pt. 2”. However, title track “Living Thing” and opener “The Feeling” are good examples of PB&J turning themselves on their heads. On tracks like these, percussion takes center stage letting the beat drive the songs, leaving the vocals in an unusual second fiddle position. The heart is in the hand claps, the rhythmic timing. The arrangement works, and it works better than the usual in my opinion. It’s experimental. You can tell they sat down and told themselves they were going to do something different. I love when decisions like these are so evident in the results. Like Radiohead’s pow wow before they sat down to write Kid A did for them.
Maybe the normally fast-paced drive of Peter, Bjorn and John is your thing. Perhaps Living Thing isn’t for you. I think it’s a diamond in the rough. As with any music, it’s really your call.