Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Cardigans - First Band On The Moon (1996) Album Review

I've always had a fascination for the smash hit "Lovefool". I didn't quite comprehend how big the song was, being just a kid when it came out. But it was HUGE. It topped charts across the world including Billboard, and was featured in several Hollywood movies- most notably Baz Lhurmann's Romeo + Juliet. But time has passed, and the lesser I hear the song, the more obscure the band got for me. In those rare occasions when it does go on the radio I'm like "Which band was this again? This isn't The Cranberries, but I'm damn sure it starts with a 'C'!" - which is weird because I kept remembering The Cranberries (which I still find obnoxious), but always seem to forget The Cardigans. But anyway, the last Lovefool "serving" I got sent me searching for this Cardigans album, and so goes the rest of my story.

The Cardigans
This Danish-Swedish band, as far as I can tell, are masters of the retro sound. But don't let the sunny, sugary exterior of this album fool you. Closer examination of the lyrics reveal much much darker themes, mostly about a woman who readily and willfully accepts abuse from a partner who couldn't care less. Whether Nina Persson, the band's vocalist, was subjected to the same kind of relationship during the writing of these songs remains up for question. The low esteem and self-deprecating nature of the lyrics, although sad, is ironically amusing at the same time. "Oh, I think you're standing on my left foot. It's hurting but it's okay cos I'm in your way." The same stories of abuse and sado-masochism aren't exactly a rarity since I do happen to know a couple of women who are willing to take an emotional beating just to save their relationships. Seriously, ladies. Enough with that stuff! Man the f*** up!

Reality aside, this album presents these dark themes into a carefully woven piece of sunshine that is sure to delight and bring some smiles and disgust from its listeners. The rhythm section is among the best when it comes to the indie/retro sound, not to mention the cute vocals - which seemingly buries the underlying themes beneath the ground. That would of course explain why a lot of people who lived through the 90s often misunderstood this band as just another schmaltzy pop act (and that includes me). Definitely something worth remembering and worth recommending to coming generations.

My score:
8 out of 10

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arkarna - Fresh Meat (1997) Album Review

Fresh Meat album cover.
I remember being extremely disappointed when this record came out. And it was in the cusp of the late 90's post-grunge alternative rock era. The group was dubiously marketed as an electronic-tinged alternative rock band on MTV and I sought the record out in record stores expecting just that. Much to my disappointment.

"This isn't rock... This is freaking DISCO!" were my first thoughts upon hearing "House On Fire"- the first track. And what was left of my alt-rock illusions of the singles "Eat Me" and "So Little Time" quickly vanished- seeing them, for the first time, as electronic tracks with distorted guitars instead of rock tracks with a bit of electronics. The ensuing disillusion completely turned me off and the album was shelved. Goes to prove I really hated electronica back in the day.

A still from the "So Little Time" music video
I don't know what it is about age, but it was only recently that I was able to digest electronica without feeling nauseated. I began listening to deep-house, which to this day remains one of my go-to pleasures. Then I remembered this album. I still have the cassette, but I threw out my cassette player a long time ago. I was lucky enough to get this in digital form though. Trust me, this record is hard to find these days. Finding the band's 2nd album "The Family Album" is even worse. I believe it's extinct (internet-wise). (If you happen to have it, please send me a link). *EDIT* Found it. :)

Anyway, yes, I remembered this album and I finally gave it a proper listen. If you hate electronica, then this album might not be for you. Tracks I would recommend are obviously the hit singles "So Little Time", "Eat Me", and the less popular "House On Fire" and "Future(s) Overrated". "Block Capital" and "Born Yesterday Part1" are also worth mentioning (with the latter as my personal favorite). These songs are chock-full of moments - pretty much the same type of thing I talk about in other songs by other artists. I'm obsessed with these so-called "moments" and I'm equally obsessed with bands who frequently shell them out. I'd get into the details, but I'm afraid I'll only paint an inaccurate picture inside your head. It's best to just listen to the album. That is, again, if you can dig electronica.

My score:
8 out of 10

PS: Don't miss the hidden track- an acoustic version of "House On Fire" right at the end of "R U Ready".