Cardigans Button it up With New CD

OLGA RAMAZ
El Vaquero Arts and Entertainment Edit

Not a typical breeding ground
for pop music, Sweden is
generally known for its Swedish
meatballs and one of its greatest
pop exports to date, Abba.

But Sweden also gave the
world The Cardigans, one of the
most successful bands of the
’90s, which follows the curve of
its popularity with a strong new
release, “Super Extra Gravity.”

Their follow-up to 2003’s
“Long Before Daylight” stems
from extensive touring throughout
Europe where the band
played several festivals and
small, more intimate club gigs.

Recording sessions started
shortly after the completion of
the tour when the group finally
came together in Gula Studion, a
studio in their hometown of
MalmA. Splitting their time
between the studio and their
respective homes, where diaper
changing is now on the top of the
to-do list for Cardigan Lasse
Johansson and Bengt Lagerberg,
the band worked feverishly to
produce a beautifully written
album from beginning to end.

Taking a stab as producer this
time around is Tore Johansson,
who had lent his services on the
groups previous release but was
“fired” during the recording of
the last album over creative differences.
Johansson also produced
the band’s 1998 recording,
“Gran Turismo.”

Familiar elements, which can
be traced back to their previous
work, can be found on this
album. The strong melodies and
vocalist Nina Persson’s sweet,
uncanny voice are once again the
shinning stars of this latest effort.

However, the difference this
time around is a much more
unrestricted and unpredictable
sound, as opposed to a polished,
over-produced album.

The end result is 14 tracks,
none of which are alike. Songs
full of contempt, revenge, lust
and wall-to-wall guitar, guarantee
to raise some eyebrows, snap
some fingers, tap some feet — all
punctuated by the occasional
flying guitar solo.

The first track on the record,
“Losing a Friend,” is a melancholy
song heavily engulfed by
regret and contempt. A tearful
guitar opens the song, giving
way to Persson’s soft, yet raspy
voice as it is accompanied by
pounding drums, a barely there
organ sound, and sporadic guitar
solos.

The delightfully cocky, “I
Need Some Fine Wine and You,
You Need To Be Nicer” is one of
the grittier songs on the album.
Just like on the first track, the
song opens up with an electric
guitar that not only manages to
draw in the listener, but also
manages to set a tone for what’s
to follow. And what’s to follow
is a sassy Persson summoning
her lover, who in this song in
particular is being personified
as a dog, to
“sit,” “stay” and “rollover.”

This upbeat track
shines for its loose yet
precise nature. Peter
Svensson, Lagerberg,
Magnus Sveningsson,
Johansson, drums, bass,
and organ respectively,
do a great job of interplaying
each instrument
into one collective piece,
creating a balance both
musically and lyrically,
matching Persson’s inyour-
face feistiness.

Rounding off the
record is “Slow,” which
is without a doubt one of
the best songs on the
album. Sticking to the
basics, the band goes unplugged
for this one,
whipping out the
acoustic guitar and bass.

Thrown into the mix,
light drumming and a
very faint keyboard
which make the song
somewhat depressing,
yet hopeful at the same
time despite its gloomy
tone and lyrics.

Throughout the song
there is a ghostly aura, similar to
that of the late Johnny Cash.

Whether or not the band looked
to Cash as an inspiration, they
have unwittingly managed to
capture his essence in this fourminute
song, a song which would
have fit nicely in Cash’s 2002
release, American Recordings IV:
The Man Comes Around, an
album full of cover songs as well
as classic “Man in Black” recordings.

The band has had its share of
hits thanks in part to past albums
like “Gran” and “First Band on
the Moon” (1996). Their major
breakthrough came when their
single “Lovefool” was included
on the “Romeo & Juliet” soundtrack
that same year.

Consequently, the band reached
platinum status in the United
States, and found themselves
at the number one spot in the
airplay charts.

In a world full of bad cover
bands, cover songs, over-produced
records and anal retentive
musicians, there is a desperate
longing for bands to flip the bird
every now and then and go astray
from what is expected and create
music that they enjoy performing.

Something refreshing and
different is always welcomed and
with this album, the band has
earned the embrace of the industry
and the listener.

Stripping down to the basics,
synthesizers and elaborate studio
gadgets aside, these Swedes have
accomplished what most bands
now a days have trouble doing;
making a good record from
beginning to end.

If there is one thing that is for
sure its that this album has something
for everyone, so there really
is no need to skip around to
find the better track on the
record. However, if skipping
does occur, be forewarned, the
risk of missing out on impeccable
musicianship is very high.

The year is winding down and
the chances for another record,
similar in flawlessness, are slim
to none.

Upbeat, mellow, intricate and
plain, the songs on this album are
able to satisfy any musical palate
with both their dark/feisty/hopeful/
lyrics and the array of instrumental
talents. This recording
promises to be yet another success
for the Swedish quintet who
have managed to beautifully craft
one of the better albums of 2005.

Rating **** out of four