Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Cardigans May Be The First Band On The Moon, But They Can Stay There!

The Good: Some fun songs, Sounds good
The Bad: Lyrics are almost all depressing, It's just dull, Short
The Basics: If First Band On The Moon is emblematic of the talents of The Cardigans, they ought to jettison their lead singer and simply make instrumental tracks.

I'm trying to write a fifteen minute review because that's how much time is left on The Cardigans's album First Band On The Moon, which is in my player right now. I'm hoping to not have to listen to the album again (which would make it the seventh time the album played through). I picked up First Band On The Moon when I heard the song "Been It" performed live on a Lilith Fair album and my thought was "Maybe the Cardigans aren't as bad as I remember them." For those who did not live through the 90s, the Cardigans hit it big in the United States with a single called "Lovefool" which was their one-hit here and garnered them to the graveyard of "one-hit wonders." And for the record, after listening to the album repeatedly, the Cardigans are as bad as I remember them.

With eleven tracks clocking in at thirty-nine minutes, First Band On The Moon is a moody pop album which is as deceptive as it is annoying. Like Merril Bainbridge's debut, The Garden (reviewed here!) the album contains upbeat sounding songs that fit into the pure pop category that are disturbing when one bothers to actually listen to the lyrics. I'm a bit miffed as to how the band was allowed to tour with Lilith Fair as only the lead singer is a female.

So, I'll go with the positive. The Cardigans have created an album that illustrates they have musical ability in terms of their ability to play instruments and even sing. While the songs are populated by the fairly typical guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, the album offers a more diverse range of instruments. There are violins, a flute, trumpets, a clavinet, and a cello, which is not often used in a pop-rock context. Yet, the Cardigans make the combinations work. Were it not for the lyrics and the vocals, this might be an average instrumental album and simply be inane dance beats as opposed to gruesome musical commentary.

Sadly, though, there are the lyrics. Presented by Nina Persson, all but one of the songs are written by members of the Cardigans and they have a dark sensibility to them. The songs are almost all about disappointment, being used, being left and/or being abused. Take "Been It," where Persson melodically sings "I've been your sister, I've been your mistress / Maybe I was your whore / Who can ask me for more / . . . I made your bed / And I was in it when your faith was dead . . .Sweetiepie / I'm your personal pro, you know / You know what number to try when to cry." Almost all of the narrators presented are miserable, begging to be loved and not finding satisfaction.

In fact, out of all of the tracks, only two had any lyrics I enjoyed. I enjoyed the ironic phrase "You wish that you were special / I'm just like you" ("Losers") on one track and I thought "Iron Man" was decent. "Iron Man" is also the only song not written by the band. It tells the story of a man building up his armor and basically going mad. It's wonderful and dark and it is straightforward in its moodiness.

The rest of the songs are undone by the vocals. No matter how murky the guitars and bass appear on other tracks (or how upbeat on some), the Cardigans are undone by lead vocal Nina Persson. Persson has a high pitched, whiny voice and she presents all of the songs with a lilt that is airy and the definition of pop. All of the lines she sings (outside those in "Iron Man") lack gravity. So when she sings about being abused on "Heartbreaker" with lines like "Oh, don't do that / Don't use that bat / That's all it takes to make me falling flat," the menace is lost in her sugary vocals. It sounds more childlike than damaged and the result is disappointing. It's hard to take the lines seriously.

Of course, the rhyme schemes don't help. They foster a singsong attitude to the tracks when the themes are often too complicated for the sound. As a result, First Band On The Moon is almost homogeneously pop in the worst way; lacking in substance and excelling in sound. After seven listens through the album, I'm eager for the experience to end because I find Persson's voice to be grating and boring.

I don't know who would like this album. Teenagers in the middle of killing themselves, maybe? But don't we have Goth music for that? Teenagers who want to dance and not think, maybe? Don't we have cars to weed out that population? Sorry, that was cruel. I can't think of who would like this album. It's bad. It's boring and it's finishing now; I look forward to ditching this one.

The best track is "Iron Man," the others are pretty bad, save the instrumentation backing them.

For other female-driven bands, please visit my reviews of:
Different Light - The Bangles
MTV Unplugged - 10,000 Maniacs
Tear The World Down - We Are The Fallen


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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