May 2018
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2003 (2003):

The Cardigans – Long Gone Before Daylight

Around the start of this century, I was asked by Robert Duffy to write a column about British music for his nascent website, Obviously I was flattered to be asked, and despite my lack of suitability for the role, I eagerly accepted.

I was sill working shifts at this point, monitoring mainframes. Unless things went horribly pear shaped, you had a lot of time on your hands on a twelve hour nightshift. I figured that this was time that I could spend writing about all of the new music that I was listening to.

By the end of 2003, my end of year roundup said that the album of the year was by The Cardigans, a band that had been releasing records for ten years and that hailed from Sweden. So much for new British music.

At the time I said that it “If I was asked to boil this year down and save one album for posterity, it would be this one, a hundred times out of a hundred.” As you can see, I used to have more time to think about what I was writing. I used to listen to a lot more music than I do now. And I quite obviously knew what music I liked, and was determined to stick with it.

I’d been a fan of the Cardigans for years. Although I still adore their earlier music I know that it’s a slightly more intelligent version of the catchy pap cluttering the pop charts but that it’s still essentially disposable. I did find their appeal diminishing as they got sucked into the mainstream.

Which is why I still find it fascinating that a band known for their superficial pop sheen can come up with a record as substantial and organic sounding as this one. I don’t tend to always go on about lyrics but listening to this album again recently, I’m reminded that beneath the pop hooks, this album was all about the words. I don’t think that Nina had ever written such acute and personal lyrics as the ones on this album, and I know that at the time, they resonated very strongly with my confused state of mind.

I think it also helped that the album ended with a track called ’03:45 No Sleep’, an ode to insomniacs all over, and a song that I spent a lot of time with in those early hours.

There’s a shy acoustic guitar, and some delicately brushed drums before Nina gently sings of roaches, and of champagne from last New Year, and the comfort of fireflies.

As I’d wander around the Stockley Park parking lot, illuminated by the bulbous lamps dotted around the estate, I’d have this song on my headphones, and find myself nodding in agreement as Nina closed the album.

“If I had one wish fulfilled tonight,
I’d ask for the sun to never rise.
If God gave the mic to me to speak,
I’d say, stay in bed world.
Sleep in peace.”

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