Peter Bjorn & John: "It Beats Me Every Time"
One of the major pitfalls of buying digital albums is that you don't get all the real, touchable things that come with a physical purchase. The case (is it a jewel case or just a simple cardboard sleeve?), the CD itself (will the disc art match the album art, like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Take Them On, On Your Own, or will they be separate entities, alien to each other in their own world), and — most important to me — the liner notes. The liner notes usually contain the lyrics. The lyrics that the band wrote. What exists on lyric websites are almost always approximations based on what the transcriber thinks they're hearing, and that is usually far from accurate. (Tangentially, this is another reason why I love extreme metal; nobody is out there saying I think he's growling "blah blah blah" and then writing that nonsense on a lyrics site. Death metal lyrics get transcribed from the liner notes directly to the websites.)
Take Them On, On Your Own inside of case...
What I'm getting at is this: I bought the digital version of this album (Falling Out: Planekonomi, 2004), so I have to rely on the websites for the lyrics, but they're not always accurate, so there are some discrepancies in what you'll find on various lyric sites for this album. The refrain, however, comes through crystal clear, and the message (whatever some of those slurred words in the verses are) is unmistakable: "We need to talk."
To start, according to Peter Bjorn & John, this album primarily deals with, as the title suggests, people falling out of love from the things and people they fall in love with:
"In everyday life we tend to compromise. This is neither good nor bad. Well, in art it's merely negative, when in life it's just necessary. We give up things we believe in to avoid being left behind, or locked out. In this compromising life we also tend to fall in love. Not just with people, but with places, philosophies, societies and our picture of what life should be. We stare sheeplike in the direction of this ideal picture. But we'll never get there. That way we're bound to be let down. We get confused. And we hurt each other.
But these clashes, bullfights and mannered conflicts are there for a reason. We need them there in order to grow and to move on. We need to be confused. Sometimes we fall out with ourselves, and our expectations of ourselves. These are the hardest ones. But also the most important ones. Here are our songs about falling out. Some about falling in as well, but mostly out. Have a listen."
This song seems to be directly about a person. The narrator is in a relationship and is about to leave, perhaps for a tour (I gather that the main character of this song is none other than the actual band member who wrote it, bassist Björn Yttling). But while he's (presumably) been enjoying the relationship, he's conflicted. Being away from home for a long time calls relationships into question that way, and not knowing whether you want to keep things together or not can sometimes be reason enough not to. Just before he leaves, he finds out he'll be gone for several weeks, so what to do now? There's an appeal here for him, to be sure. Enough to keep him on the tipping point every time he thinks about it: "I just can't figure out what you're up to. It beats me every time." But reevaluating everything brings up a key point in his decision: "But I know what you've done for me ... it's nothing."
What sort of relationship status will our character be posting by the end of the song? It's left undeclared, but perhaps there's a bit of revelation in the second stanza: "Taking out the trash and by mistake I throw away the keys."
Compared to other PB&J songs, this one doesn't stand out as a particularly ripe choice for lyrical criticism. To be honest, it gets a lot of repeats through my speakers because of that dead-on drop in tone at the end of each refrain. That's the sort of sonic turn I love!