If The Cardigans' previous album was majestic and mature, "Super Extra Gravity" is an unruly and spectacular album. Still, there are similarities. The band succeeds in retaining everything that was good about "Long Gone Before Daylight" while, at the same time, rebelling against it. Continuity and reaction in one.
That the last album marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Swedish band's history was obvious. However, as their composer/guitarist Peter Svensson puts it, "it just wouldn't be The Cardigans if we went in and made the same album again".
So, what was the inspiration this time around?
We wanted to make an album that was "strange and good", says singer/lyricist Nina Persson. The idea was that each song should contain something twisted and spectacular.
Both Nina and Peter independently mention The Pixies as an inspiration.
Not surprisingly, we don't sound like them at all, Peter smiles.
The new album was made after a period of extensive touring. It all began two years ago, with festivals around Europe and Britain. A European club tour in the autumn of 2003 was followed by a short break, during which the band found time to record a bonus track for the American version of the album. The North American tour lasted from May through to September.
Looking back, it feels like the last tour gave us a great foundation as a live band. It started out a bit shaky, but when we got going we were able to stretch out and relax in a way we hadn't previously been able to.
Work commenced almost instantly on "Super Extra Gravity", the band working with Tore Johansson in Gula Studion in Malmö.
Since both Peter, keyboard player Lasse Johansson and drummer Bengt Lagerberg have become fathers, the sessions had to be carefully planned. 12 days in the studio were followed by eight days off. During the latter, Peter posted two demos of new songs for Nina to write lyrics to - often together with her husband, renowned American film music composer Nathan Larson. During the next 12 days the two finished tracks were recorded. Sounds like an old-fashioned hit factory?
Yes, Nina nods, we just had to be more disciplined. Sooner or later these things are bound to happen if you want to combine your rock band with a life. The advantage of this procedure was that every band member has been very involved in all aspects and phases of the album.
This was it an asset for both composer, lyricist and band.
We were forced to be more constructive, Peter explains. On earlier albums there was this tendency to avoid working when things didn't feel a hundred per cent, which turned the making of the last album into a drawn-out affair. This time around, there just wasn't time. Decisions had to be made, which has given the album a more spontaneous feel.
If anyone fears that the pragmatic approach to writing and recording has resulted in a very controlled album, they are mistaken. The timeless, organic and mature album had already been made with "Long Gone Before Daylight".
Every stroke of the brush, every sound and every lyric had a similar feel, which was both a strength and a weakness, Peter explains. Looking back, it can feel a bit too homogenous and nice. But that was what we were after when we made it, and we're still very proud of it.
A lot of the things that were good about "Long Gone..." can be found on this album: the interplay between members, Nina's vocal presence, the strong melodies. But the strife for perfection and making a "well-produced" album of a timeless quality have been exchanged for a, wilder, less predictable sound. The songs are shorter and more to the point.
Compared to our mature last album this is an obnoxious teenager, says Nina. I think our extensive touring resulted in us taking greater liberties and sprawling in different directions.
The fact that Tore Johansson, who was absent last time around, is back at the producer's helm as well as having mixed the album, is no coincidence.
We "fired" him during the recording of the last album, because we felt that he was pushing us towards an approach we attempted to leave. He still doesn't particularly like "Long Gone..." He has a whole different aesthetic. But for this album we came crawling back! admits Nina with a generous laugh.
The album's first single is the cocky, "I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer". An energetic and obtrusive song that proves that Nina would make a great Virginia Woolf if she wanted. Just listen to how she spits out "sit!"
The next single will probably be totally different. There just isn't any song that sums up the album. "Super Extra Gravity" never stands still. Unexpected sounds abound, whether it's beautifully circuitous guitar solos, relentless metal drumming, brutal bass sounds, treated pianos, depraved waltzes or echoes of neglected parts of rock history (just listen to Lasse's in-your-face organ on the devout "Holy Love".
"Good morning Joan" features a wall of guitars, whereas "In The Round" showcases Magnus Sveningsson's indie and goth roots and hints at what The Cardigans would have sounded like, had they come from Manchester or Boston.
Album opener, "Losing A Friend" is a sparse song that could have been one of the highlights of the last album. It would, however, have been more polished and never contain such dirty sounds (or that wobbly guitar solo).
The sad and beautiful "Don't Blame You Daughter (Diamonds)" seems to be about taking responsibility for your own life and avoid becoming a martyr.
The lyrics are usually like photographs, describing a feeling or a state of mind rather than telling a story with a beginning and end. Nina describes the lyrics as "generally less sad and more whiny".
I really try to write about other things than complicated relationships but it's hopeless, she sighs, without looking at all displeased.
A exception to her description is "Godspell", in which she takes a look at how religion can still be the opium of the masses.
A lot of bands try to hide their lack of strong material with "interesting" sounds. The Cardigans don't have that problem, every listen of this new album reveals another gem. The Cardigans and Tore Johansson have succeeded in their aim:
To make a beautifully deranged album that never ceases to surprise the listener.
FACTS & HISTORY
The five-piece met as teenagers in Jonkoping, a small Swedish town in which the only distinguishing feature is its fifty-two churches. In October 1992, bonded by their mutual love of hard rock music, guitarist Peter Svensson and bassist Magnus Sveningsson conceived The Cardigans. As their hometown was hardly a Mecca of musical enterprise, the group packed up and moved to the somewhat more central fishing port of Malmo, Sweden's third largest city, to seek their fortune. With Peter writing most of the music and the band as a whole composing the lyrics, the quintet set out to find a deal.
After an early recording of "Rise & Shine" appeared on a local independent label in 1994, The Cardigans were swiftly signed to Stockholm Records. The same year the band made their debut for the label with Emmerdale and later won the accolade of "Best Album of 1994" from Slitz, at the time Sweden's leading music magazine. The rise of The Cardigans has since been gradual, allowing them the time to develop naturally as their sales and positive exposure grew with each release. Their second long-player, Life, which followed in 1995, featured the hit singles "Carnival" and the re-recorded "Rise & Shine", and witnessed the band's first international chart success. Prior to the First Band On The Moon album in September 1996, The Cardigans released "Lovefool". Although the first response to the single was very positive and landed them in the Top 40, it achieved nowhere near the impact that awaited it the following Spring.
It was in 1997 that The Cardigans were first catapulted towards international superstardom. "Lovefool's" inclusion on the blockbuster Romeo & Juliet film soundtrack that Spring pushed them past the boiling point. The single not only reached No. 1 in both the UK and US airplay charts but also debuted at No. 2 in the UK national chart, where it remained top five for five weeks. All in all, the album reached more than 2.5 million sales worldwide, achieving Platinum status in the US and Japan and Gold in the UK. The promotional activities supporting the worldwide success of "Lovefool" and First Band On The Moon were never ending. The band not only performed a yearlong world tour complete with endless radio sessions and press and television interviews, but even ended up making guest appearances on Beverley Hills 90210 and the David Letterman Show.
It was because of the sheer exhaustion resulting from such a schedule, that The Cardigans since took some well deserved time off at home in Malmo to recuperate their artistic juices and write new material. During their time off, however, the band was by no means dormant. In the beginning of 1999 they contributed a new track, "War", to the A Life Less Ordinary soundtrack, a live recording of "Been It" to the Lilith Fair compilation and "Deuce", featured on the new album, to the X-Files soundtrack. Their break also included experimentation with various solo projects.
In June 1998, the group, who are very loyal to their roots, once again joined long-time producer Tore Johansson at his studio, Country Hell, located beside the picturesque Svaneholm Castle in Malmo and recorded the album, "Gran Turismo".
The first single, "My Favourite Game" was a major hit in many territories. The video for "My Favourite Game" was directed by Jonas Åkerlund. The second single "Erase/Rewind" was released in January 1999, and this single also turned out to be a major hit around the world.
"Gran Turismo" reached more than 2.5 million sales worldwide.
The album "Long Gone Before Daylight" was released in February 2003 and from the album the singles "For What It's Worth" and "You're The Storm" were taken. The album received great reviews and the band spent most of 2003 touring Europe and North America.
Nina Persson - vocals
Peter Svensson - guitar
Bengt Lagerberg - drums
Magnus Sveningsson - bass
Lasse Johansson - keyboard, acoustic guitar
* "Long Gone Before Daylight" CD/LP (Stockholm Records/Universal Music, 2003)
* "I Sing Because Of You", Righteous Boy - Magnus Sveningsson's solo project (Stockholm Records 2002)
* "A Camp", A Camp - Nina Persson's solo project (Stockholm Records 2001)
* "Gran Turismo Overdrive" CD maxi/12" vinyl, Ltd edition (Stockholm Records, 1999)
* "Gran Turismo" CD/MC (Stockholm Records, 1998)
* "First Band On The Moon" CD/MC (Stockholm Records, 1996)
* "Life" CD/MC/LP (Stockholm Records, 1995)
* "Emmerdale" CD-album (Stockholm Records, 1994)