Ubuntu, RIAA, The Cardigans

The past week ranks pretty high on the uninteresting weeks list, with few things of note happening in the tech industry. Still, we learned when the release candidate for Windows 7 will be arriving, the Ubuntu 9.04 beta arrived, the RIAA got a smiling nod of approval from the Obama administration, and, well, that’s about it. This week’s My Take is about The Cardigans.

Week in Review

We started the week off with two original articles. Eugenia wrote about using the IBM X41 as a lightweight Linux laptop, while OSNews user Moochman wrote about mobile platforms from a cross-platform developer’s perspective. Our other original this week was a review of Grand Theft Auto 4.

On to actual news, we learned that Obama’s Department of Justice had sided squarely with the RIAA in the record company pitbull’s case against a file sharer who downloaded seven songs off the internet ages ago. Many had hoped that with Bush’ parting, the US government would take a different approach to the RIAA’s outside-of-the-law practices, but apparently, those hopes were unfounded.

Later that same day, we reported on a speech by Eric S. Raymond in which he questioned the need for reciprocal licenses like the GPL. He explains that with the market punishing companies for taking open code closed source, the need for a license that punishes is void. Many disagreed with Eric S. Raymond.

Microsoft explained why IE8 does not pass the Acid3 test, claiming that the standards Acid3 tests are still in draft, and as such, could change in the future. A large amount of people on OSNews actually agreed with Microsoft on this one, which surprised me. Speaking of Redmond, we learned that the RC for Windows 7 will come in May, and that the company is attacking Apple on price.

This week also saw the release of the beta of Ubuntu 9.04, and Icaros Desktop 1.1. We also discussed AmigaOS and x86, as well as whether or not Aqua is on its way out. Not exactly a very exciting week, but maybe the next one will be better.

My Take: Educate yourself, Jim Halpert!

In episode 5 of season 3 of The Office US, Jim Halpert sings “Lovefool” by The Cardigans to annoy one of his co-workers. After that scene is over, he says something along the lines of “Whatever happened to that band?”, and that line has always bothered me. The Cardigans have gotten progressively better after “First Band On The Moon” (1996), and it’s sad few actually seem to know that.

I’m a huge fan of the Swedish band, but only of what I call “The New Cardigans”. Roughly, you can divide the career of the band in two: everything leading up to “Gran Turismo” (1998), and “Gran Turismo” and everything that followed it. The “old” Cardigans often appear to be cheery, simple love songs, but are actually deeply cynical and sarcastic takes on love. The music is simply not my thing, however, so I never really liked the “old” Cardigans.

And then Gran Turismo happened. The album is dark, moody, minimalist, and very electronic. It’s one of those albums that I classify as “style exercises”; a departure from what they used to make, generally quite experimental, and often not liked instantly by established fans. Another good example of such an album is Garbage’s third album, BeautifulGarbage.

In any case, Gran Turismo is an odd album; it feels like there are no separate songs on it – everything logically flows into one another, from beginning to end. The best way to describe Gran Turismo is it’s done. There is nothing that needs changing, nothing that needs fixing, nothing that needs retooling.

Gran Turismo delivered two major hits (at least in my country): the enigmatic “Erase/Rewind“, and of course the super-hit that everybody knows: “My Favourite Game”, with one of the coolest video clips in music history. Still, the other songs on the album are not to be neglected. Especially “Explode” is brilliant in its simplicity and cleanliness, but don’t rule out gems like “Higher” and “Paralyzed“.

After Gran Turismo, the band took a long hiatus to work on several solo projects, but returned to rather raving reviews with “Long Gone Before Daylight” (2003), an album inspired heavily by American country music. It’s probably the most subtle and subdued album of the Swedish band yet – very grown-up, but at the same time it reclaims some of the lyrical cleverness of the earlier days of the band. It’s not an easy album to like, and it took me a while to accept the country undertones that make this album unique.

Still, once you’re in it, it’s an absolute gem of an album. There are two songs I want to highlight. First, “3:45 AM: No Sleep“, a song that perfectly captures that moment where you’re lying awake, alone, late at night, overthinking your life. Whenever I listen to this song, memories of long nights of drinking with my friends pop into my head, those moments where you feel your friends and you are the only things on this planet.

The second song I want to highlight is “And Then You Kissed Me“. Contrary to what its title may imply, this song is anything but lovey-dovey. You’re forgiven for thinking this song is cheery and peaceful – in fact, a closer inspection of the lyrics quickly reveals the dark secret that lies beneath this brilliant song. I don’t think there is any other song out there that so eloquently captures the psychological mechanics at play in domestic abuse situations.

This song is part one in a two-parter, with part two (aptly named And Then You Kissed Me II) appearing on the album following Long Gone Before Daylight. While in part 1 the woman in the song seems to accept her situation with an air of disconnect and even curiosity, part 2 is much sadder and even darker, with the woman being much more cynical and aggressive, questioning her own role in the situation. Both songs make me feel very uneasy and twitchy, both with sadness, as well as anger towards the culprits. Excellent showcases of good songwriting.

The Cardigans’ latest album, “Super Extra Gravity” (2005), lacks the polish of both Gran Turismo and Long Gone Before Daylight. It moves away from the unified feel of those two, preferring a more individualistic approach to music, where each song stands on its own. As a whole, the album is therefore less satisfying, but if you look at it song-by-song, the picture is different. It’s full of beautiful songs, most of them a lot more raw and unedited than previous material.

A must is “I Need Some Fine Wine, And You, You Need To Be Nicer”. Great song, very rough for their style. I love it. The video is kind of… Disturbing at times. “Sit!”

My personal favourites of this album are the pounding “Losing A Friend” (excuse the video, all I could find), “Good Morning Joan“, and “Don’t Blame Your Daughter“. That last one’s video deserves full attention.

So, well, that’s what happened to The Cardigans, Jim Halpert. They made lots of music after Lovefool, and better music too (in my opinion, of course).

I guess some of the attraction I have towards this underappreciated band comes from the fact that the band itself has a rather odd makeup: the men are all heavy metal fans, which is an odd combination with front woman Nina Persson, with her sleepy and dreamy voice.

In any case, they certainly deserve a listen. You may also want to check out Nina Persson’s “solo” project A Camp. At least promise me you’ll check out And Then You Kissed Me I and II.


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