Friday, March 16, 2007


To those of you who are turning up right now to protest: I am sorry. This whole campaign against Peter Bjorn and John has pushed me to what I now realize is a total mental and emotional breakdown. I haven't eaten in forty-eight hours, and the friends I am staying with have basically asked me to get out. I simply can't carry this burden any longer. I have packed up my car and am leaving town.

I started this blog to take the fight to Peter Bjorn and John. Obviously I can't claim to have won that fight, but I hope that the fight will continue without me today. Maybe someone reading this right now will decide to make the fight their own. As for those of you who like Peter Bjorn and John, who are raising them up to some sort of demigod status even as we speak -- well, you can go ahead and pile on me if you like. Call me names. Gloat. I expect nothing less from you smug indie jackals. Mark my words, though: history will smile on our side, not yours. It's cold comfort, but it's all I've got right now.

D-Day for PBJ

Just as I was preparing to go out last night, I got an email tip that I should listen to the streaming archive of KEXP's live performance by Peter Bjorn and John yesterday. (You have to put in the date and time to find it: the band went on soon after 1:45 p.m. Austin time, so that's 11:45 a.m. Seattle time.) In particular, the tipster said, I should pay attention to "Young Folks." Let me tell you, it's worth a listen: it really pulls the veil back from this phony band.

One thing that a lot of us have probably thought when listening to "Young Folks," or seeing video of their live performances, is: How does Peter do such an awesome job of whistling? He seems to nail it every time. Well, the answer is: he's lip-synching the fucking solo. The KEXP performance is 100% proof. On at least two occasions, he accidentally starts singing over the solo. The entire facade of this band crumbles. They're like a Swedish Milli Vanilli. And worse: when he messes up and starts singing over the whistling, you can actually hear him laughing about it. You can almost hear what he's thinking: these stupid American hipsters will listen to anything. You can give them a song with a whistle solo (bad enough) but then you can fake the fucking solo and laugh about it, and the stupid Americans will still go along calling you the big "buzz" band of SXSW. And it's happening, too. You try to stop something but then you can just see it happening all around you. I read it in the blogs; I hear it when I'm walking along the streets; this is the goddamned band this year. And it sucks.

The thing that especially sucks is, you all are going to realize that I was right. I swear. Give it a year, and somebody will mention the name Peter Bjorn and John, and you're going to laugh and say, "Oh yeah, everybody was excited about that band, weren't they? How funny that anyone took that band seriously." It's inevitable. What's worse, I even think that you know this now. Yes, it's fun when we all like the same thing at the same time. And yes, it's easier with something light and vacuous. But where will that take our culture? What will indie rock be remembered for?

I still hope that some of you are going to come to the protest today. I need for it to be over just so I can have any sort of enjoyment here in Austin, or in my life in general really. I never did wind up going out last night. I'm also sick of all the insults -- in comments, and in email, and even on the streets (I don't know how people figured out who I was, but it seems to have happened). No, this is not viral marketing for the band (I think I've dispensed with that here and here -- if you think that a PR person would insult the band like I have then truly you have never interacted with a PR person). No, I am not a loser, or a douchebag, or any of the other things that people want to call me. I just am trying to advocate for the long-term aesthetic interests of all of us, and even if you don't understand it now then maybe you will later.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stolen Bass

Word is getting around town that Bjorn's bass was stolen last night. A lot of people seem to think that this blog might have had something to do with it. Let me say this in no uncertain terms. I don't care how much you are on our side: if you stole Bjorn's bass last night, and you are reading this, you need to give Bjorn his bass back right away. We may hate the music of Peter Bjorn and John, but we believe they have the right to play it. Besides, if we succeed this weekend in stopping Peter Bjorn and John -- and, despite the reverses of the past twenty-four hours, I still am holding out hope that we might -- I wouldn't want them to be able to say afterwards that we accomplished it only through subterfuge.

Anyway, that's enough said about that. I want to be clear that my problem with Peter Bjorn and John is purely musical, not personal.

(On the other hand: I was dismayed to read in comments that at a show yesterday at Red Eyed Fly, they "thanked" this blog. Is that true? Can anyone else vouch for this? Let me know in comments. If so, it's pretty damn petty. Not quite worth stealing a bass over, but still.)

First Night - Report

I should start off by confessing that despite my best intentions, I did wind up walking by La Zona Rosa, the club where Peter Bjorn and John were headlining last night. And I was discouraged to see the size of the turnout -- really, it was astonishing. This blog has a lot of work to do. I went by around 10 p.m., at a time when most of the clubs on Sixth Street were just getting started, and there was a huge line that stretched for maybe fifty yards. La Zona Rosa is really pretty far out of the center of town, too, so most of these people walked a long way. I have to ask: Who are these people? I spent a while lingering around, watching the people line up, trying to figure out just what the matter with them was. Really, it was a standard collection of hipster jackasses, with tight jeans and chunky glasses; people who no doubt had just read about Peter Bjorn and John on some stupid music blog (or on this blog -- and yes, I'm aware of the irony, assholes, but my philosophy is that you need to educate people and let them make their own choices, foolish or not), who figured that they were the next big thing, and so made up their mind to get in on it. God damn it, it made me mad, the calculating cynicism of it.

Anyway, stopping by there was clearly a big mistake, and I obviously should have listened to those of you who emailed me not to do it. I see this now. Part of the problem was just how long of a walk it was: by the time I got back to the center of town, I had missed a couple of the things I wanted to see, and the other ones were already really crowded, with lines out the door. I wound up hanging outside a show by a really cool band who was playing under a tent -- I never did catch the band's name, though, and meanwhile there were so many other loud concerts going on at the same time that there was all this shitty extraneous noise. One other bright spot: I did have a drink after that at a sort of cool bar, where I ran into a friend who said he's planning to come to the event, which is awesome. By the way, definitely still email me if you're planning on coming -- a couple of people from my original crew have bailed, it sounds like, so it would be good to know if I will have some reinforcements.

Rereading this post, I feel like my report is kind of a downer, but I really don't mean it to come off that way. I'm really having an awesome time in Austin, and I really do think that we will succeed in stopping Peter Bjorn and John. Part of the benefit of this blog, I realize, is just to make people aware of the problems with the band, so even if they jump on the bandwagon at first, the doubts that we've lodged in their minds will stay with them in the future. At least I have to hope so. More later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

First Night

I'm about to head into town to see some shows, but I did want to make a quick post before I go. A few of you have emailed to say that you're getting to town tonight, so hopefully I'll run into you later. I spent a long time today going through the listings, listening to MP3s of the bands, etc., and I've got what I think is a pretty stellar itinerary lined up. Late tonight or first thing tomorrow I'll tell you all about the bands I saw. A bunch of you have asked me (in comments and in email) about who I think we should be paying attention to, besides Peter Bjorn and John, and I'll give you reports after I see the bands.

One club I won't be going to tonight, obviously, is the one where Peter Bjorn and John are headlining (I won't name the club, so I don't get slammed with another round of you're-promoting-the-band nonsense, which I hope I dispensed with here). This turns out to be sort of a shame, because a couple of the acts before them sound pretty cool. But hopefully I will get to see them at shows later on in the weekend.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In Austin at Last

Austin, or at least what I have seen of it so far, is a terribly dispiriting place. It didn't help that I arrived during a near-torrential rainstorm. But the city itself feels joyless, empty. Before heading out to where I'm staying (at a friend's, a ways out of town) I drove straight to the site for the event on Friday -- the corner of 6th and Lamar -- and was struck by how bland and suburban even this "downtown" intersection felt. The record store, which incongruously seems to have some sort of brewpub attached & affiliated, is catty-corner from a gargantuan Whole Foods supermarket that I have since learned is the largest in the world. So before you come to protest, you can stock up on pricey organic prepared foods.

Compounding my bad mood was the Peter Bjorn and John album, which (ill-advisedly) I had decided to play as I drove in, so I could hone my argument and focus my mind for leading this campaign. That it did: I had disliked the album on my few initial listens, but I was struck on my re-listen in the car at how poorly the songs wore on me. All the phony slapped-on sounds are so apparent: "Start to Melt," which is lame faux Guided by Voices; "Paris 2004," which is lame faux Wilco; "Objects of my Affection," which is some wack-ass lo-fi Proclaimers shit. Even "Amsterdam," the one track that I had begrudgingly enjoyed somewhat on my first few listens, came off as hollow and cloying.

Fortunately, though, all storms must pass, and all albums must end. The rain let up, finally, just about the same time that the nightmare of Peter Bjorn and John yielded to something more pleasurable. (To the next track on my iTunes, alphabetically by artist: "Freek-a-Leek," by the inestimable Petey Pablo & company.) Now, after settling in at my friend's place and enjoying a fine Shiner beer, I have nearly forgotten the heartache of a few hours earlier.

Anyway, more tomorrow -- can't wait to see all of you here.

From the road, Pt. 2

Back out in the car reading some more comments.... I can't believe that I have to say this, but: this blog is NOT some stupid reverse psychology stunt to support Peter Bjorn and John. I don't doubt that there is some PR company out there that would conceive of such a retarded thing, but that sure isn't me. Maybe I can convince you by telling you more directly my opinion of Peter Bjorn and John's music, which I realize I had perhaps been diplomatic about before. A few adjectives will suffice: manufactured, over-cute, lazy, vacuous. Would a PR blog use those words? And I could go on.

This does raise an interesting point, though: the whole "buzz band" phenomenon, in which indie bands get pumped up by PR people, the media, the labels, etc., has made the fans incredibly paranoid. Any positive (or, apparently, negative) press about a band immediately draws accusations that it was orchestrated by the band in question. The whole idea behind the event on Friday against Peter Bjorn and John is that, after all the ethereal "buzz" and counter-buzz and so on, we will make an undeniable physical statement against Peter Bjorn and John and for other bands.

but I also think that this paranoia, this focus on buzz, is unavoidable when it comes to bands like Peter Bjorn and John, whose music is totally empty and derivative and market-driven. The only way out is to support bands who make art, with serious songwriting and startling vision and painstaking craftsmanship -- the sort of thing that gets derided these days as "rockism," but the fact is it's still how good music is made. And if you agree with us, then come out on Friday and help us stop Peter Bjorn and John.

Ok, went on for too long.... I've gotta get back on the road....

Monday, March 12, 2007

From the road

hey everybody, if I sit in my car I can pick up some wi-fi, but it's spotty (lost this post twice already) so hopefully this time it will come through. I should have good access once I get to town late tomorrow night.

from the comments, it looks like some new people have found the blog, which is awesome. If you're new, you should definitely read the old posts, especially about our Event at SXSW (which is looking more and more interesting -- more on that later).

There was one comment, though, that I wanted to respond to. "jim" wrote:
"Are you aware there's a war going on? And you're going to protest a BAND!?"
I respect the sentiment, but my response to this is: why even go to SEE bands if there's a war going on? That is, why support bands you like during wartime?

The obvious answer is: because you still think culture is important. But if you think culture is important, then you need not just to support the bands you like but oppose the bands that need to be opposed.

I agree that the war needs to be protested also, and I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. In fact, at the event on Friday, if you want to protest the war as well as the band, then by all means. But don't get fooled by people who say that bands aren't worth protesting. If bands aren't too frivolous to pay good money to cheer on, then they aren't too frivolous to speak out against.

More later. Peace everybody.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

See You in Austin

Alright, tomorrow morning early I set off for Austin. I'll try to post from the road, if I can find a signal wherever I wind up staying. I leave feeling pretty upbeat -- I think that we are going to succeed in stopping Peter Bjorn and John. The thing to keep in mind is that there are something like 800 bands performing at SXSW, and a lot of them are amazing. There's no reason why another band can't be "the" band.

If you're coming to this blog for the first time, read the earlier posts (particularly Why Peter Bjorn and John Must Be Stopped) and if you're going to be in Austin for SXSW, make sure to get the details on the event.

See y'all in Texas.....

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Event to Stop Peter Bjorn and John @ SXSW

Okay, now we get down to the how. If blogs can start an indie rock band, there is no reason why we cannot use the same methods to stop one. Especially one that needs to be stopped as much as Peter Bjorn and John. (If you doubt this, see my earlier post.) So those of you who agree with me, get out there and blog about this.

Also, we are going to have a rally at SXSW for those of you who will be there. According to Oh My Rockness, Peter Bjorn and John's last scheduled show in Austin is on Friday at 3 p.m., at a record store* at 6th and Lamar. Our rally will be at the same time, outside the store. The details:

Friday, March 16th, 3 p.m.
6th & Lamar, Austin (outside record store where band is playing)
(Google Map link)

Show up by 2:45, and make sure you have something that indicates you're anti Peter Bjorn and John, so we can all find each other. What I plan to do is write "PBJ" on a piece of duct tape and put it over my mouth. (The idea is that trying to make PBJ into a breakout band is essentially silencing those of us who hate the band.)

Also, you might also wear a shirt or a button for a band that you think is actually good, so that anyone who sees the protest will get ideas about better bands that they might pay attention to instead.

If you're sure that you can make it, email me so I can get a rough minimum headcount.

* note: I am not naming the record store just b/c I don't want anyone to think that this is some sort of stunt for the store.

UPDATED: OK, so I've now heard from at least 30-40 of you that you'll be there. Awesome. Lots of people seem to like the duct tape idea, so if you find me at the event, I'll have a roll of tape and a Sharpie. Or bring your own.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Why Peter Bjorn and John Must Be Stopped

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are headed into SXSW with the serious danger that Peter Bjorn and John will be turned into the "buzz" or "breakout" band of the festival. What is the evidence for this? Consider:
For the people doing the judging—i.e., the major media, many of whom parachute into the indie-rock world for SXSW and want to emerge having declared someone the victor—these are just the sort of signposts that they study to figure out which bands to follow while they're there. Right now, as I type this, reporters for national magazines and newspapers are looking through music blogs, looking at download charts, trying to draw up a short list of potential buzz bands that they can flog to their readership.

As much as we would all like to just ignore the whole "buzz band" phenomenon -- to chalk it up (correctly) to the meaningless machinations of a press in need of a story -- the fact is that those decisions matter. They matter in terms of what bands get played, what bands get signed, what bands get associated with indie rock as a genre. Whether we like it or not, the sound of the "buzz band" gets attributed to us, in terms of what we supposedly like. We, the indie-rock fans, suffer when the buzz band is bad.

Which brings us to the question: Do we want Peter Bjorn and John to be hailed as the standard bearers for a whole genre of music? And the answer is: NO WAY. As I acknowledged in the previous post, "Young Folks" was catchy and harmless, but this band is not a significant band. Peter Bjorn and John must be stopped.

And we can do it. As admittedly cheesy as this may sound, if there's one thing that blogs (and consumer-generated media more generally) have taught us in the last few years, it's that those of us who try hard enough really can affect the culture, even if we never get some big cultural institution to back us up. This has been especially true with indie rock.

We make these bands ourselves, online, though our posts, listens, downloads, and links. If we want to take them down, we can. In the case of Peter Bjorn and John, we must.

As for how, I will get into that in the next post.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Who Peter Bjorn and John Are

Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, Peter Bjorn and John are an indie rock band whose name is straightforwardly derived from the names of its three members: Peter Morén (vocals, guitar), Björn Yttling (vocals, bass), and John Eriksson (drums). They have put out three full-length LPs so far: Peter Bjorn and John (2002), Falling Out (2005), and Writer's Block (2006). Only this last album has received much attention outside of Sweden. This is due entirely to the success last year of that album's first single, "Young Folks."

If you do not think you have heard "Young Folks," you should think again. Listen to it if you think I am wrong. Or watch the music video to refresh your memory:

In the waning months of 2006 it was everywhere. In November the song was featured on the ABC show Grey's Anatomy, and it made scores of 2006 end-of-year best-of lists, even of the non-indie variety. As Pitchfork put it in naming the song #5 on its own best-tracks list,
In a year of The Long Tail-- when nobody didn't have a website (not even Ryan Adams), and music listening followed TV viewing and political wingnuttery into Big Bang-style fragmentation-- "Young Folks" belonged to everyone.
With its retro-1990s break beat and its catchy but empty whistle riff, "Young Folks" was a perfectly sweet, semi-irono dance number to warm our autumns, and even winters. It was respectable ear candy to modestly rock our modest urban houseparties. It should have ended there.

And yet here we are in March, with SXSW just days away, and Peter Bjorn and John seem to be on the short list to be (in the lamentably accurate term) the "buzz band" that emerges from the festival as the New Voice of a Generation or some such.

For more on why this is deeply problematic, wait for my next entry.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Goal of this Blog

The goal of this blog is simple: to stop the band Peter Bjorn and John from getting any more popular than they already are. Just to be clear, I accept that Peter Bjorn and John are already somewhat popular, and that there can be no undoing this. I merely want for the indie-rock community to take matters into its own hands to ensure that this popularity, at least here in the United States, goes no further.

I will try to lay out the reasons why in a few introductory posts. My next post will concentrate on the question: "Who are Peter Bjorn and John?" The following post will tackle the issue of "Why do Peter Bjorn and John Need to be Stopped?" Later posts will elaborate on this point, and also lay out what you, the reader, can do to help the cause.

Those of you who have ideas about how to help the campaign should email me.