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From the opening chords with the eccentric organ music this is pop at its most luxuriously beautiful. Like the bastard child of Saint Etienne and Jacques Brel, the Cardigans released their second album in 1995 and it was reasonably successful.
It was huge in Japan but when you listen to the rhythmic beats, the kitsch sounds and the delicate voice of frontwoman Nina Perrson you'll appreciate why.
This is one of my all time favourite albums, its not going to motivate you to fight for the love of a good woman/man/goat(apologies I've been watching a lot of Bill Hicks recently) or depress you to the point of melancholically (Don't know if that's a word, if not I'm sure you understand what I mean) sitting their eating a tube of Ice Cream as big as your head.
These are delicately crafted and beautifully performed songs from one of Sweden's finest musical exports, they are not quite Abba but the do give Doctor Alban, Ace of Bass and Stakka Bo a real run for their money in the Svenska fame stakes!!!
Anyway back to the review. This album delights in being very retro, its melodic, its fun and it is just the most chilled out beautiful little thing to listen to:
Carnival: This is a great opener with mad wailing organs melodically backing a thumping drum and guitars, Nina croons beautifully about a Carnival coming to town, I want to go, it sounds like the dreamiest place ever (Sorry for some reason I've taken on the writing style of a nine year old girl in the 1940's!).
Gordons Gardenparty - I don't really know of another song I've ever heard I could compare this to, its simple, its lovely with a great chorus, its so pretty and sweet, Nina has the most amazing voice and this song reminds me only slightly of the kind of random tales the Kinks were great at producing to ace melodies, its has similarities to Parklife era Blur, but really is nothing like it at all.
Daddy's Car: Another song that reminisces almost like a twee English Public School girl, but this band are Swedish, the beats, organs, voice, again its beautifully melodic, poppy and so chilled out it makes me just lay down shut my eyes and grin a massive stupid grin. Its about a car travelling round the world and becoming a spacecraft!?!
Sick and Tired: One of the songs that first got me into this band back in the day, its fast paced and about as angry as the band get on this album, ok its not Rage against the Machine, but Nina does sound slightly peeved in a jaunty poppy way for being messed about by a caddish chap. Its cutting, cheeky and gorgeous (Sorry for all the superlatives, but this album is as cute as a baby panda).
Tomorrow: Another cracker, the band are on top form as this song builds up to a stirring crescendo. This kind of music is the sort of thing you'd get in Café de Paris on their big band, cheesy nights with Lenny Beige etc, but its just so much better than that. It reminds me of Parisian Student films from the sixties.
Rise and Shine: I love this song, its life affirming, quick, fun, well sung, well performed and dreamy (Sorry for using that again!).
Beautiful One: This is a song that reminds me of the people I love most, it is just the most wonderful song, slow but totally in control its almost a childlike lullaby full of nonsensical lyrics and a singer sounding like a female cloud performing just for you (That sounds weird, but in a nice way, I promise), it's a song I'll sing to any children I have (Or more likely play them to avoid mentally damaging them from an early age!).
Travelling with Charley: About an amorous detective called Charlie, this is as English a song as I'll ever hear, great story, original score, god knows what the inspiration was for this, but this is an awesome song, absolutely eccentrically different and all the better for it.
Fine: This is a cracking tune. So far every song has been 5 out of 5, this is as indie as the album gets with Elastic-esque guitars accompanied by that cute, sassy, sexy voice, she just makes me melt, what a song.
Celia Inside : Whimsical, gentle, this reminds me of a nice old spinster in the Outer Hebrides (Not that I know any, it just makes me think in that general direction), different at one point Nina sounds like John Lennon, lovely acoustic guitars and arrangement, the lyrics are actually pretty heavy but the song is lovely.
Hey! Get out of my way: If this song was sung to you, you'd smile, it's a bit abraisive, like being whipped with Candy Floss, or attacked by a tortoise, this is lovely and sounds a bit like Sixties scores on films like Barbarella, lovely, beautiful (Adjective overload!!!).
After all....: Love this, its melancholy, slow and utterly beguiling, another 5 out of 5 song and the lyrics are awesome, this is an amazing lovesong and makes me feel all gooey inside, I really can't emote enough about how nice this song is.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath; Cover of a Black Sabbath song and this is what covers are about, who'd know this, this is a slow paced thumper which could put you to sleep, I'm fairly sure the original couldn't.
Ok so I've gushed more than an Icelandic Volcano about this album, you might guess its going to get 5 out of 5 from me and it is one of the finest kitsch pop albums of all time. It is an album to put on and just grin and relax, Beautiful One is a song that could make you fall in love with almost anyone its hypnotic and reaffirms strong values.
The album was not something the guys repeated they moved onto rockier stuff, but this is masterful and if you like bands like Royksopp and kings of Convenience you'll adore this album.
It's £4.99 on Amazon has a lovely picture of the charming Nina on the front and get's 4.5 out of 5 on there. The album is addictive, relaxing, charming, very original and really listenable.
I think its their best album by a mile and one of the best albums I own, its odd but for me this is better than many much higher rated albums, but then I guess the world is a subjective place. Anyway enjoy the album and when your laid their grinning like a big cuddly teddy bear imagine how good they could be if this wasn't their second language!!!
Having an international cross-over hit from a film that outsells everything you've previously done put together has its downsides, namely everybody forgetting instantly any previous work. Whilst 'Lovefool' has proved to be something of a millstone around the necks of the Cardigans for their subsequent careers, the band have produced some exceptional and underrated pop albums which show a greater depth than the catchy 20-second chorus they have become renowned for. The enigmatic Nina Persson is the band's frontwoman, and like Shirley Manson in Garbage or Gwen Stefani in No Doubt, she is probably the only member of the band with a public profile. However, along with fellow members Peter, Bengt, Magnus and Lars-Olaf, Persson can lay claim to being one of the most interesting musical exports from Sweden in the mid to late 1990's. It is probably best to describe their sound as Saint Etienne colliding with a European 60's Bondgirl in IKEA. Each of the songs on this album is produced to absolute perfection. Whilst this may be grating to the ears of some, and perhaps overdoing the kitsch factor on some of the tracks, the effect appears quite organic as Personn's sweet vocal combines with some deceptively dry and dark lyrics. 'Life' was the band's second album released in the mainstream, following on from their debut 'Emmerdale'. Whilst perhaps not displaying the greatest range of sounds, 'Life' begins with the super-sing-a-long that is 'Carnival', which effortlessly mixes smooth strings with acid-jazzy keyboards and a characteristically aloof vocal. The gloriously titled 'Gordon's Gardenparty' takes us to a surreal place where you can imagine sausages on a stick and champagne being poured on the patio of a member of the celebrity jetset in the 60's sunshine. The same saccharine sentiments are carried forward in 'Daddy's Car', where Persson&
#39;s beautiful vocals lifts the subtle tune into becoming one of the album's standout tracks. Another sweet sounding song is 'Sick And Tired', although it's lyrics convey a darker sentiment, as we hear a tale of depression and desperation. This epitomises the fact that the perception of The Cardigans as a sweet little pop band that sings sweet little songs is very wrong once you hear the words to the upbeat tunes. 'Tomorrow' continues in the same vein, and leads into the geniunely cheery 'Rise and Shine'. Whilst some might say that the cake is a little over-iced at this point, it still manages to be extremely catchy and listenable. The second half of the album continues the same theme of twisting what appears on the surface to be pretty love songs into subversively bitter ones. Admittedly the latter half of the album is a bit samey, although final track, a re-interpretation of Black Sabbath's 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' is certainly worth a mention. Worked over so that the monster rock tune now resembles a smoky soundtrack to cocktails at a posh London bar circa 1967, it rounds off the album with a touch of class, elegance and a bit of surprise. It's probably fair to say that 'Life' isn't an album that can be listened to repeatedly on loop due to its relative saminess and kitch. Nonetheless it is one of their best albums, and demonstrates that whilst The Cardigans may be a bit of a musical one-trick pony, it is a champion thorough-bread rather than an old nag destined for the glue factory that they personify.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Gordon's Gardenparty
3 Daddy's Car
4 Sick & Tired
6 Rise & Shine
7 Beautiful One
8 Travelling With Charley
10 Celia Inside
11 Hey! Get Out Of My Way
12 After All...
13 Sabbath Bloody Sabbath