CULTURE

Deceptively chirpy, Swedish band the Cardigans set for first Greek dates

After taking a lengthy break between albums while contemplating whether there should be a next step, and if so, along what musical lines, top-selling Swedish pop band the Cardigans eventually regrouped for last spring’s album «Long Gone Before Daylight» and are now promoting it with an extensive tour that includes two dates in Greece this week, their first here. The Cardigans will play their first Greek show in Thessaloniki this Friday night at the Mylos arts complex before heading to Athens the following evening for a performance at Ark No. 6 (18 Themidos, Tavros). Also in Athens, two young German musicians currently making an impact on the contemporary circuit, Maximilian Hecker and Barbara Morgenstern, will perform tomorrow at Club 22 (22 Vouliagmenis). The Cardigans, whose well-crafted material has tended to appeal to a diverse range of pop-rock listeners, demanding or other, last put out an album in 1998. A sturdy seller, «Gran Turismo,» nevertheless prompted the band’s personnel to think hard about its future. The quintet, which formed in 1992, drifted, worked on solo projects, then reconverged to test the waters and decide whether they could continue to work together – and how. «Being unfaithful to a band is good, if you have the intention to get back,» the group’s singer, Nina Persson, who released a solo record during the band’s hiatus, remarked in a recent interview. «The band only became better after we all went solo,» added Lars-Olof Johansson, the act’s keyboardist. «Long Gone Before Daylight,» the latest outing from the Cardigans and the act’s fifth studio album, confirms a new direction for the band. Unlike the higher-energy pop of its predecessors, the latest album’s sound is far more understated – a well-structured work with discreet appeal. Part of the appeal of this band’s work can, possibly, be attributed to the deceptive texture of its material. Unsettling tension often lies hidden beneath a misleading saccharine -pop surface – like biting into a rotten toffee apple. Perhaps it is the members’ disparate musical backgrounds that generate a unique and elusive charm in their combined work. As strange as it may seem, the band formed around the nucleus of two heavy metal fanatics, guitarist Peter Svensson – who had previously trained in music theory and jazz arrangement – and bassist Magnus Sveningsson. After growing tired of metal, the two decided to form a pop band with Persson, an art-school friend who had never sung professionally, as well as Johansson on keyboards and drummer Bengt Lagerberg. The five moved into a small apartment in 1993 and began recording a demo tape that, soon after, ended up in the hands of producer Tore Johansson. He invited the nascent act to record at his studio which led to 1994’s debut album «Emmerdale.» It generated both commercial and critical success for the band which then toured Europe while also recording a second album, «Life,» which was released the following year. «Life,« an upbeat album, ended up selling 1.5 million copies worldwide and became especially popular in Japan, where it went platinum. Their next album, «First Band on the Moon,» the band’s major-label debut, forsook pure pop for more abstract arrangements and violent parts, too. It provided more commercial success for the band, reaching gold status in the lucrative US market, and, once again, platinum in Japan, within three weeks of its release. Hecker, the young German artist playing tomorrow at Club 22, has generated interest on the strength of two albums to date: this year’s «Rose» and a debut release two years ago. The 23-year-old musician started playing his breathy pop romanticism in a Berlin market, equipped with just a guitar and amp. Hecker began his career as a drummer for various rock bands but soon discovered that the bands were not playing his songs as he intended and ended up working solo. The musician recorded his debut album at home but remains, not surprisingly, an intimate and comfortable stage performer. His show tomorrow in Athens – one of the first of a four-month world tour whose itinerary includes mainstream destinations as well as less common music tour destinations, such as India, Indonesia and Thailand, as final stops in February – is being sponsored by the Goethe Institute. Tickets, subsequently, have been priced at a very affordable 5 euros apiece. Also on the bill is another young German artist, similar-minded in her work, Barbara Morgenstern.