Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
Make no mistake about the bookshelf of one Peter Morén. Of the rows, whether he organizes according to the size and make of the book or alphabetically, there contains an F. Scott Fitzgerald section, but the books with the most dogged corners could be the ones that are discovered second and third, probably third and fourth when reading the classic author's work. Though in Gatsby Fitzgerald explores the "abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men" with waning interest and the narrative voice explains early on that the "intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions," Morén - the jelly and the peanut butter of Sweden's 2007 breakout group Peter, Bjorn & John - borrows an album title from a different book that looks at life and the foolish throes of the blustery American Dream differently.
Oh, there are similarities to the premises, as Fitzgerald is famous for his disdain for posturing and fakery and yet he allowed his work to be easily and sadly bought and dictated by the Hollywood institution near the end of his days, giving him a reputation somewhat as a desperate hack for hire, but Morén doesn't go for the grand ideas on his debut solo record The Last Tycoon, just the personal ones. He gleans certain minor takes of The Love of the Last Tycoon and This Side of Paradise, as well as The Great Gatsby, and gives them his own relevance in his songs about not fitting that square peg into the square hole and finding that the way for him involves fewer bright lights and less of the people palling around him for new reasons. He, like the greatest majority of us, are determining ourselves as we go, spelling out our unique eloquence, canter, enunciation and preferences for relationships to all things, people, stations, sequences and situations. One could easily, hence wrongly, believe the ugly notion that after a hit single from 2007's Writer's Block that Morén and his cohorts have caught a comet by the tail and they're getting those all too imaginably pleasant sensations of having the stardust kicked back into their eyes like the most glorious exhaust fumes and that there is nothing but right for them from here on our. It's a sinister conclusion that anything, or all that much changes - for it shouldn't, really - inside a man or women who suddenly tastes instant fame.
What The Last Tycoon shows about Morén is that he's still trying to figure out with the young folks do, and still being one, while existing on living out the closing line in The Great Gatsby and the inscription on the shared gravesite of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, which reads, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." One wonders if Fitzgerald chose that line himself to be his lasting marking, the dot-dot-dot that hangs in the air as conversational infinity to everyone since who's visited him in Maryland since his death. Morén shows that he gets beaten back into the past often, and he shows - with his quick smart guitar playing and his gentle voice - that he is the same old fellow that he was prior to all of the insanity of his new celebratory status. He's a quiet and friendly man, who dressed to the nines even at this early morning hour in Austin, Texas, in March. He isn't about to be changed by any way that the outside world might approach him or ask for his friendship. He is no more or less a man than he was two or three years ago before most cared. He finds amusement in the treatment of men, the unabashed worship of some and the capitalization of the mystique of famous bodies and names. It's baffling and carnivorous and so he stands off to the side, jotting down the proclivities and the acts of the provocateur for future head-scratching. He takes a piece of the fatcake on display, licks up the crumbs and moves along.