The Cardigans’ Album Third Studio Album, First Band on the Moon, is a Playlist Must-Have

Album cover for The Cardigans album First Band on the Moon

May be found at The Cardigans Official website, (Fair Use)

Album cover for The Cardigans album “First Band on the Moon”

With every lyric packed with sentiment and life, The Cardigans’ third studio album First Band on the Moon pushes through the indie-rock boundaries, becoming nothing you’ve heard before.

At first glance, The Cardigans demeanor on First Band of the Moon seems lighthearted, carefree, and a shoe-in for the 90’s pop charts. After all, Pearsson’s captivating, delicate, voice on-top of an upbeat and fun melody is an equation for success. However, if you know the band at all, you’ll be aware of their complexity and their gravitation towards edgier aesthetics. This album does not stray away from the band’s mystifying persona and will definitely leave you starstruck.

First Band on the Moon is the band’s third studio album, released in 1996. Originating as a Swedish indie-rock band, The Cardigans were launched in 1992 and consist of guitarist Peter Svensson, bassist Magnus Sveningsson, drummer Bengt Lagerberg, keyboardist Lars-Olof Johansson, and Nina Persson, lead singer.

This album skyrocketed the band’s popularity, specifically their single “Lovefool” which is a Valentine’s Day classic and “BMI Pop Awards” 1999 winner. Other songs in the album include, “Your New Cuckoo,” “Been It,” “Heartbreaker,” “Happy Meal II,” “New Recover,” “Step on Me,” “Losers,” “Iron Man,” (Black Sabbath cover) “Great Divide,” and “Choke.”

Each song in the album follows a “happy melancholy” disposition, consisting of a warm beat and gentle voice with tragic lyrics to contrast. An example of this is in “Step on Me,” where Persson expresses her discomfort when someone is standing on her feet. “I think you’re standing on my left foot. It’s hurting, but that’s okay, cause I’m in your way.” Although this situation brings her pain, she justifies the actions taken against her, instead blaming herself for the situation. The lyrics can be interpreted to represent an abusive situation where the victim takes responsibility, leaving the perpetrator with no repercussions and free to continue. The dark lyrics sung by a delicate voice is a unique music style and a trope portrayed timelessly throughout the album.

Similarly, another example is in “Heartbreaker” where again Persson vividly creates a victimizing situation through her words; a relationship where one is being valued more than the other person. The donor degrades themselves in the song saying, “A loser I am, I love you tonight.” The disturbing lyrics create a gateway to endless possible interpretations ranging from a take on delusion to unrequited love. This being backed with lighthearted music sets a confusing but interesting mood which is sure to leave you with a “what did I just listen to” attitude.

In comparison to other indie-rock bands such as The Smiths or Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it is clear that in the genre they definitely stand out. The unusualness of the incomparable lyrics to the melody makes the album differ from other things on the market, most of which consists of the typical darker lyrics to fit the dark tone. The Smiths’ award winning 1986 album “The Queen Is Dead,” or Yeah Yeah Yeahs 2003 album “Fever to Tell” both relate their chords to reflect their lyrics, conveying one, straightforward, message. Conversely, the “depressing pop” of The Cardigans is nothing like most of the albums in their field.

Comparing the album to their earlier work such as Life (1995) and Emmerdale (1994) or even their following album released in 1998, Gran Turismo, the parallelism between themes is undisputed. Each build off of the bands dark vs. light appearance, although First Band on the Moon does hold the title of most implicitly dreary undertones. This album goes beyond the others when it comes to how much raw emotion is put into each verse, ranking it as one of the band’s best albums, although Emmerdale is a close runner-up.

The album is generally not everyone’s cup of tea, but then again no music is; the reason why music is selective is because a specific community resonates with it. Nothing is one-size-fits all but that’s why we have a variety of choices so that people can find what works for them.  Some of the lyrics in the album can be controversial or triggering to some because of their degrading undertones and implicit (plus explicit) lyrics, so let that serve as a caution before listening. Something that this album does really well is keeping the same energy throughout its debut, emphasizing on the band’s message about abuse in relationships.

Although it was concerning at first that the album has a cover of another band’s song in it, I soon learned to overlook the unexpected addition. Black Sabbath, an English rock band, produced their heavy metal song, “Iron Man” in 1970. Even though the heavy metal presentation of the song strayed from the look of the album, the band was able to take something completely contradicting and turn it into their own. Their transformation of the song produced something beautifully unorthodox, and their ability to take someone else’s work and make it their own is a skill not many musicians can complete successfully.

First Band on the Moon is the definition of unique, leaving behind the expectations set by the indie-rock genre. As a vocal masterpiece, it serves a platter of the unexpected and a meal full of passion. Whether you use Pandora, Apple Music, Spotify, or even YouTube, this album is going to be at the top of your playlist by the time you even get to the next song.