Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review: Vinyl Reissue of The Cardigans' 'First Band on the Moon'

“Love Fool” must have been the most misinterpreted single since “Every Breath You Take” both because lazy listeners didn’t bother to comprehend the self-loathing curdling beneath the single’s chipper sound and because many did not understand that The Cardigans were not the latest in a line of disposable, two-dimensional pop acts. Since releasing the delectably crafted and witty Emmerdale in their home country of Sweden in 1994, The Cardigans were a band unlike any other. Other artists may have appropriated ironic sixties lounge cheese or Pet Sounds-style production or Ray Davies-indebted songwriting, but none combined them as The Cardigans did, and it isn’t likely that any other group would have done it so deftly if they’d tried. Certainly none of them would have serially covered Black Sabbath.

So after making two singular, polished, and perfect pop albums, The Cardigans slipped quite naturally into international mainstream success with First Band on the Moon, largely due to the irresistible disco-pop hooks of “Love Fool”. The rest of the album was just as smart and subversive, sounding almost as sweet as “Love Fool” but expressing the same sour sentiments. First Band on the Moon practically works as a misanthropic concept album about how miserable it can be to fall in love. Tore Johansson’s crisp, multi-layered production with it somewhat more electronic sheen than the relatively organic Emmerdale and Life make it an intricate and dazzling listening experience (especially through headphones), so it’s wonderful that First Band on the Moon is the latest in a welcome series of albums from the CD age lovingly remastered for vinyl. While most nineties albums gain little from vinyl presentation because they were recorded digitally, First Band sounds significantly nicer than its harsh and brittle compact disc counterpart. The only negative is that while all six Cardigans albums are receiving this fine treatment overseas, First Band on the Moon is the only one being released in the U.S., but based on the way First Band sounds, my fellow Yanks may want to spring for international shipping at least on Emmerdale and Life.

(UPDATE: I've heard the vinyl reissues of Emmerdale and Life and they are equally spectacular)

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