The Cardigans' embrace of bubblegum-pop values has always made room for a touch of perversion and not just because they played lounge versions of Black Sabbath songs on their last two albums. In mining Sixties kitsch for its melodic potential on those earlier albums, the Cardigans were so happy it hurt; their puppy-love travails always had a hint of masochism running beneath them. On Gran Turismo, they give the irony an even harsher twist. Nina Persson still coos in a cotton-candy voice, but as disco drums churn on "My Favourite Game," she sings, "My heart is black/And my body is blue."
If once the band's songs fizzed like champagne bubbles, now there's a murky undertow. On "Marvel Hill," the bass rumble threatens to overwhelm Persson, who protests, "I don't need this"; machines grind like trash compactors on "Paralyzed"; and the watery guitar that introduces "Hanging Around" is eventually buried beneath boulder-size chunks of noise.
But the Cardigans are still at their best when trafficking in pleasant melodies with a subversive surprise tucked inside. They hit the mark on "Explode," which floats in on a cloud of lullaby chords. "Ease your trouble, we'll pay them double/Not to look at you for a while," Persson purrs. "Explode or implode we will take care of it." She sings like a guardian angel but talks like a hit man. (RS 800)
(Posted: Oct 29, 1998)
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