There is an obvious annoying factor to Swedish trio Peter, Bjorn and John. Remember 2006? Remember when suddenly the whole pub was whistling along to a tune that seemed to have been born out of your nan's cocktail party? It wasn't a very nice time at all, to be honest.
And yet, the Swedes somehow escape from the travesty that is ‘Young Folks’ with a blend of chance and creative originality. Take, for example, ‘It Don't Move Me’ - lifted from their newest album ‘Living Thing’ (REVIEW) - an ultimately dull track, despite its catchy hook. It charmingly avoids the prospect of a life in obscurity thanks to its comical genius music video, and which given the recent demise of the video's choreographical inspiration, even manages to evoke a sense of sentimentality.
For a band that made their fame through the credible effort of combining a Tesco value Hot Chip with The Magic Numbers, 2008's ‘Seaside Rock’ came as a bit of a surprise with its abundance of spoken-word narrative and instrumentals. Not that their underrated adventures into the realms of self-examination lasted for long: this year's ‘Living Thing’ combines a couple of very clever tracks for late nights with an impressive amount of fillers. But thank heavens for Spotify, right?
But tonight, PB&J have the honour of soundtracking the official re-opening of The Garage, once a dingy and dark cave of a venue, now a slightly lighter cave of a venue complete with LCD screens that seem to follow you everywhere, and a bafflingly absurd projection somewhat resembling an emo-version of Sonic the Hedgehog. The crowd doesn't seem to mind, though. In fact, the overwhelming number of almost-as-old-as-your-dads, the drunk Scandinavians and the requisite three goths in the corner don't seem to register that PB&J have already taken the stage, let alone that the Swedes are already well into their third number. A quite spectacular level of chatter reaches our ears with tonight's performers reduced to background music, their oft-silhouetted presence extruding the sort of sedating muzak that would make Kim Deal reach for a shotgun.
Not that the band seem to notice. Or care. Peter Morén manages the remarkable feat of projecting the sense of smugness regularly inhabited in some of our greatest arena-performing entertainers and yet being mind-numbingly charmless. Incoherent banter is frequent, they limp through a set almost exclusively consisting of tracks from two of their five albums, give us ‘Young Folks’ at seemingly half-speed, and the few songs met with genuine excitement ultimately end up sounding like emasculated wet sponges slowly seeping from the speakers.
It's not until penultimate encore number ‘Nothing To Worry About’ that the crowd gets dancing and everything seems to end rather nicely, but when an overly pregnant version of ‘Up Against’ finally draws to a close there is a collective sigh of relief as the band limps out to spread word of insignificance to another unassuming crowd. Sorry guys, this just won't do.
Words and photo: Brand Barstein
Peter, Bjorn and John