The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity
Like the majority of people in the UK, my experience of The Cardigans was limited to the perfect-pop moment of Lovefool and the commercial and critical success of modern-classic album Gran Turismo (released a grand total of seven years ago). I was aware that they'd released several other albums somewhere along the way but I was never too eager to hunt these down for some reason. However, after falling in love with their new record, I may have to part ways with some hard-earned cash and explore their earlier work.
Super Extra Gravity continues in the vein of recent releases from bands such as Franz Ferdinand that feature well-produced guitar pop without sounding like the uninspired likes of Avril Lavigne. This is a lush album with slight experimental flourishes, and yet it doesn't sound too complicated. And that's the beauty of it. Personally, I could get lost for days in some of the soundscapes on offer here. However, 'simple' tunes and choruses aren't forgotten amidst the mix.
Lead single I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer (what a title, by the way) concerns a seemingly perverse relationship, with lyrics referencing dogs and abuse metaphors. The fact that it's a cracking pop song to rival the seminal My Favourite Game says a lot for the band's ability to provide catchy and polished backdrops for frontwoman Nina Persson's angsty, and often very dark, lyrics. Most of the songs explore complex relationship dynamics, Good Morning Joan and Losing A Friend revolving around fragile friendships whilst And You Kissed Me II continues the abuse theme. Such bitterness is brought to the fore on album highlight Don't Blame Your Daughter (Diamonds), complete with doom-laiden strings, where Persson seems to be angrily confronting an irresponsible (and possibly dead; at one point, Persson sings 'Read me your tombstone') ex-lover. However, it's not all doom and gloom. The subtle funk of In The Round has Persson crying 'Clap your hands!', highlighting the band's aforementioned pop angle. They might have a lot more to offer than your average 'pop' band but, as Overload and Holy Love prove, Persson and the boys can churn out material with an optimistic and toe-tapping edge. Even the angstier material will have you singing along - witness the melody set against the wall of guitars on Good Morning Joan. The vocals from Personne are suitably seductive, and she sounds like a cooler Sheryl Crow or Natalie Imbruglia many times over (see Godspeed for the best example). I've already touched upon the production but I can't say enough good things - many of these tracks could be devoid of vocals and still sound amazing.
Overall, then, kudos all around! It may take a couple of listens for this album to sink in but, when it does, you might well be as pleasantly surprised as me. It may not have the dirty guitars of The Arctic Monkeys nor the bombastic electronica elements present on Ms.Alison Goldfrapp's recent endeavour. However, the album flirts with these elements (concurrently, on many occasions) and comes up with one of the best alternative pop albums of the year. Buy it!