From my first listen to the second album from the three Swedes known as Peter Bjorn and John, I was hooked. Displaying a wider range of influences than most of their geographic peers, the trio creates timeless pop that could've been made just about any time over the past 40 years, yet makes it all sound as fresh and vital as a spring day. Or a daisy. Or first love.
And yet, this is ostensibly an album about, as the title says, "falling out," despite a sound that seems more jolly than melancholy. Which reminds us again that, as everyone from Morrissey to Tesco Vee has previously noted, there's glass hidden in the grass and the sweetest kittens have the sharpest claws, and hence the spoken signs can signify one thing while the music connotes another.
"Far Away, By My Side" sees the band's magic carpet ride leave the launching pad, silly Speak-'N-Spell effects and all, Peter Morén's jangly guitar, synthesized horns and sweet tenor complemented by Björn Yttling's bass and Farfisa effects and John Eriksson working double time on genuine and digital drums. With at least three of the band's six feet firmly rooted in the '60s, "Money" soars into the stratosphere, guest Ellekari Larsson of The Tiny adding angelic vocals to counter Morén's pessimism, his "I love to see you crumble/ I love to see you cry" and "I know you're not the only, and I really don't care" butting heads with her refrain of "Don't leave me stiff and cold/ Don't bring me down at all."
The band's tour becomes magical and mysterious on "Big Black Coffin," a soaring epic that belies the Liverpudlian love, Yttling bringing an arsenal of old school keyboards to bear as the song builds through Morén's wistful voice and guitar, Eriksson's snappy drumming, and a pair of guest trumpeters to craft a wall of sound. Elsewhere, Yttling takes an interesting near-solo turn on "Start Making Sense," multi-tracking the orchestrations and his own voice while mixing in just a smidgen of Morén for a tune that evokes The Mamas and The Papas minus The Mamas.
The melodic, galloping bassline of standout track "It Beats Me Every Time" suggests that it's a Yttling composition, but he cedes the mic to Morén, who delivers a crackling, cracking performance, the coolness of the verses lost as he strains his way through the chorus, nearly gasping for breath through the song's wordiness and making the attempt to catalog an ex's shortcomings seem downright charming. A cover of The Concretes' "Teen Love" ups the energy quotient significantly, Swedish scenester Linus Larsson guesting and co-producing, re-imagining the quiet quirks of the original into a full-bore, tambourine-shaking rocker that finds Morén channeling the sound of the young John Lennon by way of Glenn Tilbrook.
Truth be told, nine times out of 10 an album this beholden to its influences would leave me retching, if only because my own rock canon includes scant few pre-punk bands. And yet, I dig Peter Bjorn and John's journey despite myself, appreciative of the thought and craft that went into the exquisitely paced and sequenced Falling Out, and beguiled by its many charms.