I’ve been a fan of Peter Bjorn & John since first hearing the album “Writers Block“ over a decade ago. The album had come out several years before that, but somehow I’d managed to miss it. Their track “Young Folks“ had become so prevalent that its opening whistle had wormed its way into the subconscious of almost anyone who stood next to a radio.
I think my ignorance of “Young Folks“ really helped my enjoyment of this album, when I finally did hear it. Rather than being the seminal track that dwarfed the rest of the album, it was instead a catchy track in a collection of varied and exciting garage rock, trying to offer a wide gamut of different styles in the genre and somehow achieving each one of these lofty ambitions with fantastic results.
The track “Start To Melt” makes use of a tried and true sound of the rock genre, which I like to call the “indie pound.” Every instrument on the track plays on the beat at the same time, resulting in a pounding effect.
Its a sound that has been done by many “Indy” bands. A sound that continues to this day, popping up over and over again due to the intensity of the “attack and release” style of play it creates. Large transients barrage you with heightened emotion on a visceral, almost primal, level.
However when Peter Bjorn & John implement the technique on track “Start To Melt,” another level of complexity of emotion comes into play. The aggression is there, but there’s also a clashing mixture of romanticism, apathy and forlornness, created by employing a few different techniques.
It is in the aesthetics of the piece that this major stylistic change lies.
The lo-fi distortion on the guitar removes some of the punch that would be there on a cleaner signal. This more rounded off sound is also slightly thinner because of dilution by the number of instruments and layering used in the track. Further, it is all played organically, with more swing than usual.
This more drifting, rounded off sound sows seeds of doubt in what would usually be a single minded, focused technique. It gives the track a sponge-like, lingering thoughtfulness, which counterpoints the vocals, which are very defined, capturing a specific moment in time.
The moments the vocals describe are cryptic as to their subtext, but clearly have a huge emotional significance. In real time, the events described would be even shorter than the briefness of this track. But by extending the moment into the tracks length, it replicates the feeling of altered time, experienced in important events. The feeling where everything slows down and even the subtlest of moments can be remembered vividly.
And that’s what makes “Start To Melt” so great. It perfectly encapsulates a brief moment. Playing the track transports you there; not to the singer’s event but to your own. A moment that may have been fleeting, but at that time felt like it lasted forever.
Their album “Writers Block” deserves more attention than it gets. Over time I could see every track on it ending up as part of my Track Of The Week segment. “Young Folks” may be catchy downplayed Indy at its best, but it is only one of they many different styles they incorporate on the record, and all of them are done just as well. It results in a garage rock sounding record, with an emotional depth and proven creative talent that keeps it in my mind to this day: