Swedish trio Peter BjĂ¶rn and John have created a musical universe that is constantly evolving. However, theyâve managed to retain their unique charm that made them press darlings a decade ago with âYoung Folksâ. What many didnât realize is that that hitâs parent album, Writerâs Block, was the trioâs third in a career that has seen them stretch the boundaries of Pop music. While Top 40 radioâs Pop guidelines are pretty rigid, Peter MorĂ©n, BjĂ¶rn Yttling and John Eriksson treat them like elastic rubber bands, bending and twisting those guidelines into new and exciting aural avenues. Theyâve even managed to carve out musical careers outside of PB&J while never lowering the quality control level on the albums they record together. And can you believe they even collaborated with Canadian hip hopster Drake a handful of years before he became a musical sensation?
Breakinâ Point, their first album in five years, finds PB&J offering up a collection of songs that are so instantly lovable that youâll swear youâve been in love with them for years. Every track on the album is a potential hit single â the melodies leap out and grab hold on the first spin. Their songwriting is based in classic â60s, â70s and â80s Pop/Rock, but the production, arrangements and inventiveness is thoroughly modern if not outright forward-thinking. Theyâve sidestepped the experimental moodiness of some of their past albums and embraced their more playful side. This isnât an album that tries to revisit their past glories â it creates new ones.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track down band member Peter MorĂ©n, who kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about Breakinâ Point, PB&J and moreâŠ
It is 2016 and The Monkees are celebrating their 50th Anniversary the very same year I celebrate my 50th Anniversary as a Monkees fan. Way back in 1966 when the TV show first aired and the band had their first hit single (âLast Train To Clarksvilleâ), I was coming up on my third birthday and my brother was nearing his fourth. My parents sat us down in front of the television and introduced us to a quartet that instantly became our second favorite band (after The Beatles, of course). Mom and Dad often said that the thirty minutes The Monkees were on was the ONLY time during the week when they didnât have to worry about us getting into any trouble â we were glued to the tube and thoroughly enjoying their zany antics and great songs.
Flash forward five decades, and if my folks were still around theyâd be happy to know that I predictably spent 30+ minutes glued to my CD player as I threw on Good Times, The Monkeesâ first studio album in twenty years. And then I went back and listened again. And again. You see, I wanted to give this an honest review and not base my opinion on one listen. So, I listened to it a fourth time, a seventh time, etc. And so, here goesâŠ
HAIRCUT 100 Revisited
Haircut 100âs debut album Pelican West remains one of the truly great albums of the â80s. Inspired by everything from Jazz and Latin music to â60s Pop and Post-Punk, the 1982 album was a breath of fresh air at a time when pretentious âPopstarâ posing was more important than making music. From Bob Sargentâs warm and crisp production and singer/guitarist Nick Heywardâs Pop smarts, to the inventive horn arrangements, Pelican West was an album inspired by many styles embedded in the past, yet sounded modern and fresh. The bandâs ability to embrace their influences while also creating their own unique sound is what makes Pelican West a timeless album. It is not rooted to a particular time period, so you can still play it thirty four years later without feeling that the album has dated itself. You canât say that about other career-defining albums from this time period including The Human Leagueâs Dare, Culture Clubâs Colour By Numbers, Duran Duranâs Rio or any number of so-called New Wave classics.
Initially lumped in with the British Jazz Funk movement, Haircut 100 were a true musical phenomenon formed by Heyward and bassist Les Nemes. Guitarist Graham Jones completed the original trio. The band grew into a sextet with the addition of percussionist Marc Fox, drummer Blair Cunningham and horn player Phil Smith. The bandâs first three singles â âFavorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),â âLove Plus One,â and âFantastic Dayâ â became radio hits all over the world, and even earned airplay on the then-still-fresh MTV. To many, this fresh and seemingly wholesome band came out of nowhere and became a sensation. They may have been treated like teen idols in the UK, but other countries â including the U.S. â focused on the music. The album itself was filled to the brim with great songs, many of which could have easily been a hit had they been released as singles (Iâm looking at you in particular, âLemon Firebrigadeâ!). When the band released the Pop-tastic post-album single âNobodyâs Fool,â it was obvious that Heywardâs songwriting skills were still top notch.
However, the bandâs massive success proved to be their downfall. Faced with the enormous pressure of writing a follow-up album, Heyward quit the band in the midst of recording sessions. Nick pursued a solo career (the lushly-produced North Of A Miracle contained a few of the songs the band had been working on prior to his departure) while the rest of the band soldiered on. By the time the sorely overlooked and quite wonderful second Haircut 100 album Paint And Paint was released, the band was down to a quartet (Cunningham had also left the band). The band quietly broke up a short time later. Though they have reunited in some form or another over the last decade for live shows, no new recordings have emerged.
Now, with the release of the Deluxe 2CD Edition of Pelican West â featuring additional non-album tracks and remixes â being reissued on Cherry Pop, Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with H100 guitarist Graham Jones and send him off a few questions in hopes of discovering more about this classic albumâŠ
Â Â Super, the 13thÂ studio album by British duoÂ Pet Shop Boys, is a prime example of why the Electronic/Dance act will never be part of a nostalgic â80s package tour â they are too busy moving into the future to live in the past. When they scored their first big hit 31 years ago with âWest End Girls,â PSB were a delicious mixture of smarmy Pop and then-modern Electronica. VocalistÂ Neil TennantâsÂ deadpan (and slightly campy) vocals andÂ Chris LoweâsÂ melodic, percolating Euro/Electropop backdrop made for some exciting records back in the day, earning them worldwide success and hits in every corner of the world.Â By the â90s, their star had faded a bit in the U.S. although they still released innovative and exciting albums that were snapped up by audiences In vastly different time zones than the States. Thankfully, PSB have continued to make fresh, forward-thinking records over the years. Theyâve kept on top of Dance and Electronic music trends and have embraced them wholeheartedly.Â Youâll still find elements of their â80s and â90s sound onÂ SuperÂ but youâll be sorely disappointed if youâre looking for âWest End Girls 2016â because Neil and Chris have moved on.