Review Summary: 90s Indie Pop stalwarts and "Lovefool" creators offer up yet another reason to look past their twee roots.
For a band whose résumé holds a few pretty hefty accomplishments and ballsy career moves, it is strange to think they've never really
broken US airwaves since their initial spin at the top with "Lovefool." Its highly likely that if you were alive in 1996, almost anywhere in the world, you heard that love me, love me
hook with its sugary goodness and subtle sarcasm. Chart topping and platinum sales aside and the fact that "Lovefool " essentially broke twee to its fist massive audience; it was a center piece on an album that, despite all its pep and sweet melodies, was a dark, gloomy affair. Could be you remember "My Favourite Game," it's video, with a psycho game of highway chicken in the desert. More significantly, that song's album, Gran Turismo
, pulled a Kid A
, while Radiohead were still just in the wake of OK Computer
. The two bands are a fair comparison on many levels though, both came into fame in the 90s, and both their discographies have a tendency to vary in style between albums. They both took to world fame by secluding themselves, disappearing from sight, until they emerged stripped of their past musical inclinations as a darker, electronic
, monster. While Radiohead may have seen more success with the transition, it's not to say The Cardigans haven't seen a consistent margin of accomplishment in sales, variation and quality of music. So, it is no surprise that The Cardigans on Super Extra Gravity
are a very different beast from those early twee days, and the eclectic, disco-pop of their mid career and
the alt-country break-up record that was their previous offering Long Gone Before Daylight
Super Extra Gravity's
cover presents lead singer, Nina Persson, supine, hair flowing, almost doll like; clad in a small black dress, looking quite glazed over. It's an interesting visual representation of the music, and even the change in sound the band makes between this and their prior LP. Following the decidedly darker turn their music took post First Band On The Moon
, Super Extra Gravity
, sees The Cardigans offer up their most mature album lyrically and an honest return to form when it comes to the instrumentation. Now Nina and the boys have never been the most cheery bunch, amongst all the pop(-lounge-dicso-folk), all their albums contain very apparent, very morose, underlying themes. Terrible relationships, abuse, divorce, drugs, Nina's habit to sleep around -- but this time, amongst all the bull***, they seemed to have remembered how to have fun
. She's dressed in black on the cover because The Cardigans are nevertheless seriously distraught, but, it's a party dress, and she looks kind of drunk; they've moved past the issues of their youth and now are trying to enjoy living. It could be in this affirmation of life that the band found need to again, open up its doors when it came to trying out new tricks and tweaks during the recording process. Anchoring itself (barely) in pop-rock, SEG
showcases a reinvigorated Cardigans, with a youthful ideal towards song structure (as in, *** it.) They play to their strengths while mixing in bits and pieces of their record collections. A sweet Pavement-like guitar lick here in "Godspell," or a baroque, chamber pop crescendo there in "Overload." Maybe a proggy synth line to accent the acoustic rock of "Drip Drop Teardrop" all the way to an inspired stab at the indie-pop of old with "In the Round."
This new found sense of purpose, and willingness to experiment outside of their designated genre of that time, gives the tunes on Gravity, just that -- some pull . Opener "Losing A Friend" and "Drip Drop Teardrop" are folk tinged, ebb and flow backed, distortion giants, with lyrics cementing Persson's still strong demeanor right from the get go. 'I'm gonna watch you while you get me wrong
,' she states in "...Teardrop" with her ever cynical purr, now less kitsch and airy, almost heftier and raspier with age. "Godspell", "I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer" and "Holy Love" are band oriented, big rockers; the first offering up lyrics evoking a comparison between world religious leaders and zealots (It's not murder/ But an act of faith, baby!
) "Overload", "Little Black Cloud" and "In The Round" are soft piano pop ditties, all encompassing a theme of dancing for release. "Good Morning Joan" is an alt-country open letter to past friends through a declaration of the drawbacks of fame and all that comes with it. Then there's 'And You Kissed Me II',more than just a spiritual successor to part "One" from their previous album; the song itself is a dark tunnel of post-pop and easily the best thing they've recorded. Not only that, but should the Swedish band decide to make their current hiatus permanent, it's a fitting send off as the final track at the end of their last album.
Starting with a wayward guitar strum, as Persson whispers: 'Your name used to taste so sweet/Then you beat the love right out of me
', the song builds by its second verse, employing frayed guitar rips, distorted low end bass and heavy keys. By the time you've reached the first crescendo, and Persson begins to croon; 'And it's a mystery how people behave/How we long for a life as a slave
,' the drums have filled in, the keys and guitars are swelling and the song is reaching the dark-pop height this band hasn't flirted with since the back end of First Band On The Moon
. Starting off soft and sweet, bridging the gap between verses with an epic gloomy hook, which is followed by a moment of breathing room, right before you're thrust back up, into the stratosphere of Swedish pop hell. The song structure itself following the ups and downs, thematically, of the bands career, all adding up to one, final, outburst. Persson exclaiming; 'Ass-kissing, mercy-missing faithless friend/All for a happy end!
' Her voice trails off, crackling amongst the roar of distortion and rumbling tones. Here's to hoping that their career will not end in such an abrupt, violent manner, because if anything, Super Extra Gravity
proves that this very talented group of musicians still have quite a lot of viable music to play.