By DAN MACINTOSH
Peter Bjorn and John’s latest full-length features no overt whistling, as did the trio’s “Young Folks” hit. It does, though, contain plenty of the irresistible pop music we’ve come to expect from this Swedish act.
The cover art for Endless Dream features psychedelic colored mountains, which give it a kind of John Denver-on-acid look. The music is not psychedelic, and it’s even less John Denver, for that matter.
Instrumentally, Endless Dream is decidedly stripped down. There aren’t any instrumentally packed or overly orchestrated tracks, nor are their many other instruments featured beyond basic guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. It doesn’t take an orchestra to create memorable pop, though, for instance, “Endless Reruns” is just such a lovely earworm. With its jangling guitar groove and harmonized vocals, it may remind you of early R.E.M.
One ironically titled “Simple Song Of Sin” isn’t especially simple at all. It’s put to a sparse electric guitar hook and includes a few intentional false starts, before it fully gets into gear. “Weekend” has a groove inspired by one of those great old Motown, Temptations soulful rhythms, only it’s also juxtaposed with a Velvet Underground vibe. Odd, but it still works.
Comparing Peter Bjorn and John to VU may be inconceivable to many, but this act did, after all, title its previous album Darker Days. Only whenever these musicians go dark, they rarely go anyplace near an emotional area that verges on depressingly black. Even The Grim Reaper whistles a happy tune while inhabiting Peter Bijorn and John’s sonic world.
This 10-song album closes with the hymn-like “On The Brink.” The song includes an unusual come-to-Jesus sort of lyric, which reflects upon a life lived and the choices made.
“We all carry guilt and burdens,” its last stanza begins, “So a back gets crooked and bent” it continues, describing universal suffering. It carries on — rather spiritually — with the couplet, “And we rarely ever mention/The forgiveness heaven sent.”
This is an unusual, out of character benediction, for an act not known for this kind of song. It plays out like the Byrds covering Bob Dylan, back during their 1960s heyday. It even features Rickenbacker jangle guitar and is, in the end, one beautiful way to close out a strong collection of songs.