Seconds
The Cardigans - Give Me Your Eyes



stylus Magazine's Seconds column examines those magic moments that arise when listening to a piece of music that strikes that special chord inside. That pounding drum intro; a clanging guitar built-up to an anthemic chorus; that strange glitchy noise you've never quite been able to figure out; that first kiss or heartbreak; a well-turned rhyme that reminds you of something in your own past so much, it seems like it was written for you—all of those little things that make people love music. Every music lover has a collection of these Seconds in his or her head; these are some of ours.

I habitually download albums by old favorites, even when I know damn well I moved on long ago. Maybe I believe too hard in the comeback myth; maybe I just want to see what they’re up to. It’s kind of perverse to want to know how a good band sounds past their prime—kind of like showing up at your high school reunion to see who screwed up—but probably that, too. Sometimes it’s shocking who’s still making durable music. Local H is alive and well in case you were wondering!

Not that the Cardigans ever really fell off; “My Favorite Game” was as great a follow-up to a supposed one-hit wonder as a non-fanatic could ask. But they are the kind of band people stopped paying attention to, justified or not. Years always begin slow for the great albums to roll in, and during one particular YSI spree at the beginning of 2005 I did a double take after hearing the Cardigans’ Super Extra Gravity and threw it on anyway.

The album played as expected, above average but unmemorable pop with a few remnants of alt-aggression, but nothing brain-tattooing like “Great Divide” or “Been It” from that wonderful album you can snatch for a penny plus S&H off Amazon. I don’t remember what I was doing when the Europe-only bonus tracks began, but I definitely froze. Only a year after Franz Ferdinand’s irresistibly pushy “Jacqueline,” there were all the hallmarks again: muted, ghostly intro, followed by revved guitars, winding up and down with an urgency the “Lovefool” guys named after sweaters certainly never worked up before.

It turns out Nina Persson’s angelic vocals sound excellent over faux-garage barnstorming. Twin guitars surf and simmer through the verses, occasionally braiding with a live-wire fuzz bass fill that could be a compressed sax until, aha, the Big Chorus so many try for but lack the confidence. There it is, though, exactly the heavenward trill Hot Hot Heat bought for “Let Me In,” only unforced, bracing, and superbly atypical of a band you usually can’t tell is on edge. “Give me your eyes / So I can see me straight / Give me your eyes / I can’t tell night from day” is nothing special on paper, but through Persson’s pipes, its clarion power is Pat Benatar bigness, criminally relegated to the back of the disc (and deemed unfit for whatever U.S. audience they have left) by the worst A&R person ever.

Maybe that’s the point; shy bands don’t usually let go like this. The track is so joyous and releasing that it makes the rest of Super Extra Gravity (I repeat, not a bad album) sound like a 9-5 job. “Give Me Your Eyes” is like the little souvenir lovingly attached from an off-day jam just so they can remind themselves it’s not all a business. The only serious-band hidden-jam fun ratio that ranks even close is Luna’s “Bonnie & Clyde,” and that’s a cover. “Eyes” is the kind of rage expulsion you can imagine a quiet band’s guitarist fermenting for years (“Can we track it this time?”).

Ironically, it’s the only hyper-commercial thing on the album. Clearly the band doesn’t know its own power, but what discerning label would balk at that massive chorus? As if the mouthful chosen single, “I Need Some Fine Wine, And You, You Need to Be Nicer” (sing along to that hook) was going to break Clear Channel. In a perfect world, “My Favorite Game” would’ve been “Lovefool” and “Give Me Your Eyes” would’ve been “My Favorite Game” at least. This is why Radiohead left the industry and fucking Springsteen whines about being played on “Radio Nowhere.” I just wanna hear some rhythm.


By: Dan Weiss
Published on: 2007-10-25
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