Building an American fanbase on the back of the sugary-sweet “Lovefool,” The Cardigans are back with an album that will most likely turn off folks wanting more of the cheery cooing of Nina Persson. Gran Turismo is a far darker, less retro affair than anything the band has previously attempted and has clearly absorbed much of the mood and spirit of dance music, trip hop in particular. The hints of a life beyond bubblegum pop were always there, tucked away in the far corners of each album. You might be surprised to learn the band members nurse an affection for heavy metal and are quite the Black Sabbath fans. Occasional fatalism (“Paralyzed”) and melancholy shade the proceedings, with only a single upbeat number (“My Favorite Game”) to break the mood. This approach has been done better—Portishead springs to mind—but it’s refreshing to see a band who’s made a mint on one type of music, attempt to grow beyond the confines of its audience’s expectations.
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