The Cardigans – Gran Turismo

The Cardigans - Gran TurismoOnce upon a time, it seems like I reviewed an earlier, and extremely popular, album by the Cardigans, and was kinda harsh about it. Didn’t mind the music, but I was even less crazy about the lyrics. I’m not here to say “I changed my mind, I take it back,” but I will fess up that the Cardigans have, perhaps, improved.

Gran Turismo takes the group’s sparse sound into darker territory across the board. This may sound like no big deal, but the effect is amazing – the new sound suits them a whole lot better than the old, and nowhere is this more evident than in Nina Persson’s biting vocals. She still has an angelic, innocent thing going on with her voice, but if ever I got the mental picture of hearing someone sneering while singing, I got it listening to Gran Turismo. More than a few of the lyrics are about screwed-up relationships or surviving them, and there’s a bitter edge to the vocals that simply wasn’t there in earlier material like “Lovefool”. Nor is there anything like “Lovefool”‘s doormat-ish feel – there’s no pleading for someone to “love me, love me, fool me, fool me”; the “character” in some of these song lyrics is not happy about how things have gone. I could see Gran Turismo as a “break-up album.”

Standouts include “New Beginning”, “Hang Around”, the outstanding “Erase/Rewind” (aptly used in the end credits of the Rating: 3 out of 4movie The Thirteenth Floor, and the primary reason I decided to give the Cardigans another try), and the hit single of the piece, “My Favourite Game”. Much of the best material comes early on if you listen to it straight through – there’s a definite sense of the album losing steam by the end. But this new direction for the Cardigans suits them completely – it’s a sound they’re more than capable of pulling off, and I hope they stick with it.

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  1. Paralyzed (4:59)
  2. Erase / Rewind (3:40)
  3. Explode (4:06)
  4. Starter (3:55)
  5. Hanging Around (3:45)
  6. Higher (4:34)
  7. Marvel Hill (4:16)
  8. My Favourite Game (3:40)
  9. Do You Believe (3:21)
  10. Junk Of The Hearts (4:10)
  11. Nil (2:15)

Released by: Polygram
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 42:41

The Cardigans – First Band On The Moon

The Cardigans - First Band On The MoonI’m a bit embarassed about this one, to be honest. I got sucked into the Cardigans the same way I got into Merril Bainbridge – I was wondering “Did they really just sing what I think they just sang?” Mind you, I was already reeling from months of unfortunate radio exposure to “LoveFool”, also known as the “love me, love me, fool me, fool me” song, and I had truly grown tired of it. “LoveFool” annoys me on many levels, not the least of which is the “I don’t care how you treat me, just don’t leave” message that the lyrics present – does anyone really want their daughter or sister listening to something like that? “Been It” just flat shocked me – it’s a much better song musically, and the lyrics are much more cohesive in that they actually mean something – though I think it’s the first time I’d ever heard the word “whore” on top 40 radio before the Cardigans came along. Something about the message woven into the Cardigans’ lyrics bothers me greatly as someone who is aware that people – especially impressionable young people – do receive these messages loud and clear. We already have plenty of “ho” lyrics coming from male rappers…do we really need to hear a female singing “Maybe I was your whore” and encouraging that Rating: 2 out of 4line of thought among women and girls who are listening (to say nothing of the men who are listening)? The Cardigans have the musicianship to hold their own, and Nina Persson’s vocals are effective at both the wispy and the gutsy ends of the spectrum…but the lyrics need some serious work. Later efforts such as “Erase / Rewind” proved that they could do better than this.

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  1. Your New Cuckoo (3:57)
  2. Been It (4:06)
  3. Heartbreaker (3:42)
  4. Happy Meal II (2:37)
  5. Never Recover (3:21)
  6. Step On Me (3:48)
  7. LoveFool (3:21)
  8. Losers (3:06)
  9. Iron Man (4:20)
  10. Great Divide (3:17)
  11. Choice (3:26)

Released by: Mercury
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 39:09