Music

Fucking in the Streets

Everything Counts in Small Amounts

Fucking in the Streets

Jonah Bergmark

PETER BJORN & JOHN

Listening to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain the other day, it occurred to me: Some poor folks must think of Pavement, if they think of them at all, as only a one-hit wonder, responsible for 1994's arch alt-novelty song "Cut Your Hair" (#10 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks—a friend suggested that "Shady Lane" could be their misremembered one hit, but I mean, come on, that didn't even chart in the States). Of course, Pavement have a staggering catalog of great songs, and it's arguable whether "Hair" was even that much of a breakthrough hit (at what point does a song become a hit—heavy rotation on radio or, once upon a time, MTV? Charting in the Top 40?). But the idea of the one hit isn't based so much on sales numbers or airplay as it is on a kind of collectively agreed upon pop-cultural memory, even if that memory forgets some pop-music history.

This thought stuck with me as I considered the upcoming tour pairing of Depeche Mode and Peter Bjorn and John, who play KeyArena on Monday, August 10.Some truly sad straw folks (though obviously not the hundreds of people who will fill KeyArena this week) might think of Depeche Mode as little more than a fleeting chart fluke—perhaps for their gothic country-fried guitar-driven hit "Personal Jesus" or maybe for ebullient early synth-pop number "Just Can't Get Enough" (really, the band had any number of hits that the myopic observer might mistake for their only one).

But even more likely is that openers Peter Bjorn and John will go down in the mass consciousness as only a one-off, on account of their eternally, infernally whistling slice of pop bliss from 2006, "Young Folks" (#110 U.S., #13 UK), which featured the Concretes' Victoria Bergsman singing in sweet duet with PB&J's namesake Peter Moren on the rapture of falling in love and feeling oblivious to the eyes of others, young and old. Nothing the band has done since has achieved the ubiquitous status of that single (though the band is fairly young yet), but if they are only remembered for "Young Folks," it'll be history's loss. Writer's Block, the album that spawned "Young Folks," is pretty much wall-to-wall pop hooks. Even this year's lesser follow-up, Living Thing (which underwhelmed upon first listen), turns out to be full of unlikely yet effectively catchy tunes—the delightfully foul-mouthed kiss-off "Lay It Down," the Graceland-aping title track—as well as a number of songs that just add a little more space to the band's slightly groovy sound ("It Don't Move Me," "Just the Past," "I Want You!").

I'm not deluded enough to think an opening slot for Depeche Mode is going to catapult these guys into the chart firmament. (Working with Kanye West and Drake is probably more likely to do so if anything does. And anyway, Depeche Mode fans probably won't care for them much.) But the point is that the charts and the VH1 countdown shows and the people who get their pop-culture cues from them only remember things one way; here's to not caring about those folks. recommended

 

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1
hey zuesti-fuss.. do you think BOB will turn his back again on the key?

...pianos made for guitars.

Perhaps.. "it" was not intentional.
Posted by dan k. on August 6, 2009 at 3:54 PM · Report this
2
not often I agree with you, Grandy
Posted by UberAlles on August 9, 2009 at 12:40 PM · Report this
3
Who lets you write this crap? You are truly are the worst writer The Stranger has had in the 13 years I've lived it Seattle! You managed to fill a whole article with nothing. I want the two minutes of my life back that I spent reading this.
Posted by FortuneCook on August 10, 2009 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Estey 4
I would love to see a list of artists that do not deserve one hit wonder status but have it in our collective memory (whatever that status has transformed into, as you suggest speculation of as well). It's annoying when people assume Wall of Voodoo is just "Mexican Radio" or Devo is just "Whip It!" when both those bands had some dazzling, more guitar based, album length "moments" earlier in their careers. There's a lot of other (probably better) examples too, but I'm sure I don't know half of them.
Posted by Estey on August 12, 2009 at 9:09 AM · Report this

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