Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Cardigans

Sound Familiar?
"Lovefool," "My Favourite Game"

Who Are They?

Swedish indie pop sweethearts with a hit sweet enough to make you forget about that whole suicide thing in Romeo + Juilet.

Guitarist Peter Svensson and bassist Magnus Sveningsson were really into heavy metal back in the day, but once they met up with drummer Bengt Lagerberg, keyboardist Lars-Olof Johansson and singer Nina Persson, they turned to pop music.

The Cardigans recorded a demo tape (with Nina only providing vocals on one track) and eventually got signed to a Swedish label to release their debut album, Emmerdale, in 1994. The album was only released in Sweden and Japan (rereleased internationally in 1997), but it scored the band its first radio hit, “Rise & Shine.”

Most of 1994 was spent touring Europe and recording the follow-up, 1995’s Life, which was released worldwide. The album became a huge success (particularly in Japan) and The Cardigans signed to Mercury Records.

A year later, the band released First Band on the Moon, which included their biggest hit to date, “Lovefool.” The song was literally everywhere, even in movies where it probably didn’t belong, like Romeo + Juliet and Cruel Intentions. (Okay, Romeo + Juliet I get, but Cruel Intentions? Really?)

(Fun fact: The Cardigans played themselves on the graduation episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.)

After more touring, The Cardigans released Gran Turismo in 1998. The (arguably better) album was a sharp contrast to the bubbly pop sensibilities of First Band on the Moon and spawned another minor hit, “My Favourite Game.”

(Fun fact: The video for “My Favourite Game” sparked a bit of controversy. It depicts singer Nina Persson joyriding in a car on the highway, causing multiple accidents and eventually killing herself. Director Jonas Ã…kerlund made five different endings, only one of which made it to air.)

Where Are They Now?
Recently reunited and playing various international festivals.

The Cardigans went on a short hiatus in 2000. Nina released a solo album under the name A Camp, Peter and Bengt worked on a project called Paus and Magnus recorded music under the name Righteous Boy.

But they couldn’t stay apart for long. The band reconvened in 2002 to release Long Gone Before Daylight, a noticeably darker album with an American country influence. (Nina actually dyed her hair from blonde to jet black at this time, supposedly to reflect the album’s sound.)

The Cardigans toured with Liz Phair, Katy Rose and Charlotte Martin in 2004 on the Chicks With Attitude tour, and ultimately released Super Extra Gravity a year later.

The band went on an even longer hiatus in 2007, during which Nina lent her vocal talents to a Manic Street Preachers album.

Last year (2012), The Cardigans reunited once again to play the Summer Sonic Rock Festival in Tokyo and Osaka.

But Why The Cardigans?
While there doesn’t seem to be any new material in the works, the band is still together. And Nina Persson still writes music, so I guess anything can happen.

What Does Sam Think?
Let’s just be honest here—The Cardigans aren’t anything special. That doesn’t make them a bad band—it just makes them decidedly mediocre.

“Lovefool” is a pretty catchy tune, though. I remember back when I was an angsty teenager and I had a crush on some boy who had no idea I existed, I put this song on repeat and choked, “Love me, love me / SAY THAT YOU LOVE ME” through cartoonish sobs. But I’m sure everyone did that at some point (please say you did). It’s cute and a little dark at the same time, which was perfect for my tortured teenage soul.

Now, if you like happy-go-lucky indie pop music, you’ll probably like the rest of First Band on the Moon. It’s a little too sweet for me, and Nina’s voice kind of got on my nerves a bit.

But Gran Turismo is a totally different animal—it’s dark, moody and brimming with cold, meticulous electronic sounds. They’re no Nine Inch Nails on this record, but it’s a welcome relief from the “sun-shines-out-of-your-ass” sounds of First Band on the Moon. (But again, if you dig that, there’s really no harm in it.)

“My Favourite Game” is a great song (complete with a pretty gnarly video), and I kind of wish it got more exposure than “Lovefool.” The Cardigans have proved that they can move past bubbly pop songs, but they’re still not the kind of band that melts your brain with creativity and originality. Then again, that’s the fate of most ‘90s pop bands (especially one-hit-wonders).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t dedicate “Lovefool” to that special someone (to annoy the shit out of them).

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

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