Black Licorice

Most fans of the Cardigans' hit "Lovefool" will be surprised that this is album No. 4 for the Swedish pop group fronted by the always sexy, syrupy vocals of Nina Persson. A modern electronica edge that has been the modern rock augmented sound of the last year -- see Depeche Mode, Madonna and Bowie's last albums -- is heavily apparent in this trip-hoppy, guitar riff-driven album. Melancholy melodies wander almost aimlessly, following a slo-mo trail of grindy guitarwork balanced by Persson's delicate wavering purr. It's an introspective album that tries to draw the listener into what appears to be a rather confused Cardigan lyricscape. More mature than songs from First Band on the Moon, but nowhere near the overwhelming quality of Radiohead's OK Computer -- a sound and feel the Cardigans seem to strive toward, at least from a production-song-arrangement perspective.

"Paralyzed," with its Massive Attack-ish, drawn out beat intro, drags itself into an acid keyboard-guitar sound that breaks and dips into twinkles and vocal sighs. "Erase-Rewind" proffers a lazy, funky edge, while "Explode" eases into another slo-mo progression that is the signature Cardigan sound of Gran Turismo. "Hanging Around" and "My Favourite Game" are the most aggressive tracks on the album, but still manage to sound mechanical and rock-by-numbers. A classic rock riff intro on "Do You Believe" breaks into a very dark and tinkling keyboard that hints at one of the band's biggest influences on this album -- Depeche Mode. The Cardigans have happily thrown out their lollipops and now live in a world of slinky, black licorice guitar grooves. But can the lovefools of the world handle this?

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