The Cardigans – Super Extra Gravity

The Cardigans
Super Extra Gravity

By now, you probably know what to expect from a Cardigans album. Nina Persson’s singing remains the hallmark of the band’s sound on Super Extra Gravity, much as it did when the band’s “Lovefool” turned them into superstars. The slick, light sound of “Lovefool” may be what people remember most about the band, but it hasn’t been the blueprint for the albums that followed. Super Extra Gravity is no exception; its pop sounds notwithstanding, the album has elements of AOR rock and even garage to counter the sweetness of the singing.

Tracks like “Drip Drop Teardrop” dispense with the lithe musicianship of earlier efforts. Its marching-band tempo and martial emphases would sound plodding without Persson’s agile vocals floating above it all. The ballad “Overload,” with its soft piano and occasional guitar chords, shows that the band knows how to lilt as much as it stomps. It also betrays what sounds like a strong Chrissy Hynde influence in the vibrato and harmony of Persson’s vocals. You hear it on the other songs as well, but in the setting of a ballad the approach is nakedly apparent. “Don’t Blame Your Daughter (Diamonds)” again goes the route of the ballad, complete with strings backing the whole affair.

On a track like “In the Round,” with its acoustic guitar and punchy snare, you can appreciate the production aesthetic that the band went for on Gravity. With little studio gimmickry, the effect of the music is one of immediacy and clarity. The Cardigans sound like they have traded the stadium for the coffeehouse, and it suits them. Even on the bigger numbers (“Holy Love,” for one) the band reverts at some point to a simpler sound.

The occasionally bluesy guitar on opener “Losing a Friend” shows that there’s still some garage-band idea kicking around in the sound. “Godspell” too has a kick to it. But when I hear “Godspell” I can’t help thinking that someday I’ll be hearing it piped in over a grocery store’s tinny PA. Is this a “mature” album? Probably. But I can’t help thinking that without Nina Persson’s beautiful voice, Gravity just wouldn’t have garnered a whole lot of attention.