Thursday, January 31, 2008

peter morén @ hotel cafe

It takes quite a performer to silence a bar full of jaded Los Angelinos with only a shaker, prerecorded piano track and a perfectly pitched nasal croon.

Thankfully, Peter Morén's chutzpa is well-founded.

Stepping away from his band mates (You might know him better as the "Peter" in Peter Bjorn & John1) Peter's solo project not unlike the his work with the trio. Both create rich warm musical worlds that, even at first listen, feel as comforting and familiar as a beloved hoodie. This probably comes as no surprise. However this time the stories ring with the singularity of a man telling tales directly from his own life -- albeit somewhat veiled tales.

Lucky for us, Peter was more than willing to explain the origins of some of his more confessional pieces. In the case of "Reel Too Real", the explanation was just as long as the song itself. "This song is about happily failing the military test," Peter laughed, setting the scene. "...Actually you have to be really dumb not to fail the military test in Sweden, I only know three guys who ended up in service." He goes on to explain how he failed his physic exam: "...the doctor asked me if I had had a particularly bad break up lately...I just stared at the ground and nodded." He also recounted his brilliant "true" story, "when I laid down to go to sleep at if I turned my head to the wall I'd see Hitler, If I faced out into the room I'd be fine, but if I turned back to the wall I'd see Hitler again..."

Keeping him company was a trio of string players, adding a beautiful backing to "Le Petit Coeur" and humorous counterpoints to Peter's stage banter. "I didn't write this accompaniment," Peter sighed during one of the evening's self-depreciating admissions. "I had to write a musical accompaniment to a Tom Petty song in musical high school. It went something like doo doo da" he sang and strummed, spontaneously accompanied by his three giggling musical cohorts. The moral of the story? "I failed."

In addition to strange neurosis, and an ability to joke around with a string trio, Peter also reviled that: we shop at the same guitar store2, he can't keep track of his beer, and he used to work as a substitute music teacher. "I got a lot of e-mails from kids telling me I sucked as a teacher...that I'm much better as a rock star," he said, introducing the song "Social Competence"3 . "This song is about realizing your inability to talk crap." Yeah, Peter, but when I "talk crap" it rarely comes out as melodic folk...more often than not it sounds like...yeah.

I'll lodge the complaint that -- as always -- the evening was far too short...more of an appetizer for the album to come. Am I a gluttonous American because I want that consume the album now4? The answer is probably yes. I'm okay with that.

1. And a resounding "duh" fills the room.
2. Nerosis and similar shopping habits? Let's be friends.
3. a.k.a. Would-Be Hipster theme song #42
4. Out on Quarterstick Records April 8...a fact both you and Peter found out about at the same time on today's Pitchfork.

mp3: "Reel Too Real (live) " by Peter Morén


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