The Cardigans-Emmerdale (1994)

Don’t let the cute dog and sunny hill fool you…

3.5 stars out of 4. Sonic bliss. But where’s the coffee gone?

Let me start this review by saying that I freaking love this band. I freaking love their sounds, their quirkiness, that Scandinavian darkness and their desire to not simply repeat themselves. Typically regarded as a 60’s throwback group responsible for that song (“Lovefool”, which is still brilliant), The Cardigans began their existence with records that were tremendously bright sounding…at first glance only. Underneath the sunny and jazzy melodies is this dreary pulsing utter depression. The sheer juxtaposition of a sweet shell and an absolutely bittersweet center makes these early records candy for both heart and mind. As I (and eventually my college roommate) quickly discovered.

When was the last time that depression could be so warm and fuzzy? Emmerdale creates this surprisingly cozy mood that subdues ones disbelief and allows for the morose lyrics to to be touching in their frailty. I’ve found that it really hasn’t left my head for nearly a week, much like their other albums.It kinda invites itself over for a while and slowly but surely moves in for an extended stay. Very extended.

Of course, it helps an album if these words are sung by…ummm how should I put this…an angelic voice. I could write for ages about the open sounding production, stirring melodies, warm sounds, inventive guitar, jazzy drumming, constant battle between light and dark but the big enjoyment factor is Nina Persson’s stunning vocal presence. These records just scream to be played on large headphones so that incredibly beautiful voice just wraps around your brain amidst the fun, playful and slightly quirky music. Seriously. This is mouth dropping open stuff.

Part of the fun is this dark quirky humor that defines the band’s early work. Combine this with the fact that some of the band were huge metal fans, and you get the result of a cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. Not the first thing you’d expect this band to be covering, but a sure sign of their farther-reaching-than-you-would-think impact. (Their version of “Iron Man” on First Band on the Moon is similar-completely weird, kooky, and probably my favorite cover of all time due to its sheer slaphappiness.)

In short, the Cardies debut record is a surprisingly strong work that is a very natural sounding experience and quickly exceeds their unfair twee throwback labeling. Great performances and great melodies abound that go much farther in today’s oversampled world where we are completely starved for any sort of melody. It’s really the perfect record to curl up with, drinking old coffee late in the afternoon on another wasted day, basking in the final rays of the sunset. This is a joy to review. Morose yes, but somehow still fresh and semi-hopeful.

I want the sun to bleed down.”

EDITIONS: Pretty easy on this one, as it is a CD only release in all territories. The US edition was released in 1999 by Minty Fresh Records, and originally featured a 4 song EP* which was merely the four songs omitted from the US edition of the followup album Life. Reportedly this has been left out of modern pressing runs of the CD. *I recently utilized this to recreate the original 11 track Swedish version of Life, so it is possible to actually hear the album proper instead of the versions made for different territories.

*I incorporated these into the US edition and was able to recreate the Swedish version by substituting the US added tracks in favor of these four.

Note: Ironically, the very week I pick up this first album (Finally!) and acquaint myself with it and the original version of the followup, the band announced their first tour and gigs in 7 years, playing my favourite record Gran Turismo start to finish but only in Sweden, Norway, Russia and Japan. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!

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Filed under 3.5 stars, Music Review, The Cardigans

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