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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cardigans - 'Gran Turismo' (Mercury/Polygram)

In which my secret enjoyment of Swedish pop music is revealed! I forgot that this one was on the shelf, I guess because it's white minimalist spin is easy to not-notice. I'm not entirely sure how I ended up with this; something tells me "promo" or freebie but the barcode is not punctured. Anyway, it's been ages since the Cardigans cold mid-tone pop has graced my ears, so long that the glossy pages of the CD booklet have started to stick together. The songs are infectious enough that I still remember a few of 'em. It's not as pure saccharine as my memory told me, or as others from their homeland are certainly known for (yes, Abba, but I was actually thinking of the Concretes). 'Paralyzed' starts off with a very digital, yet not-overly synthesized hook and an edgy lead vocal. The big hit for me was 'Erase/Rewind', which follows a rather call and response pattern. The singer doesn't have an amazingly distinct voice but it's good for pop music, and both compressed and echo'd at the same time to make it feel even more cold. The title of this record is a Playstation game from the time (1998!) and I can't help but read images of motion and driving into these sons. 'Marvel Hill' and 'Starter' both get some crunchy rhythmic interplay into their back-end, though I wouldn't go as far as to call it 'heavy' -- the drums are too sequenced to allow the proper breathing space. But the details are there - guitars through probably hundreds of rack/studio effects are balanced among (rather restrained) organ/MIDI stuff, and it all gels together nicely. 'My Favourite Game' is maybe most calculated for chart success, with a rollicking brashness that holds up well after twelve years. Tempo shifts are always good and this chorus hangs in a nice slowdown; I can't help but think how this might actually be "timeless" pop (yes, I just wrote that) because it could pass in the current era pretty much unchanged. (Or maybe with a smidgeon of autotune applied?) I expected to toss this on the discard pile by the end, and I still might, but only because it's a CD. Records like this are really the last gasp of the CD era - not released on vinyl (as far as I know, it's a major label of course) and before the whole iTunes stuff hit. The Swedish cheaptones of the past are the landfills of tomorrow!

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