Don’t believe a word Nina Persson says. The pouty lead singer of Sweden’s Cardigans, who appeared at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday to promote their new radio-friendly yet thematically alienating album, Gran Turismo, has, along with other insouciant tricks, a way of leaning forward onstage that betrays her insincerity. Her saucy delivery, too, which always seems to drop a quarter tone at the end of every phrase, has the power to transform even the international hit “Lovefool” from a pathetic plea into a scathing rejoinder. Her oh-so-mid-’80s garb— leather pants, a black cut-out shirt and a ratted hairdo— underscore her complete self-possession. Debbie Harry would be proud. When one of the fans called out, “I love you Nina!” she dryly replied, “Yeah, I think I love
you too.” Don’t forget that this is the same singer who lamented (in “Heartbreaker”) about
what a loser she is for getting laid so often.
Though Persson and her bandmates project nothing but confidence onstage, their new album takes self-doubt as its substance, from the cautious lines of its opener, “Paralyzed” — “Never lose your grip/Don’t trip/Don’t fall.” The Cardigans’ three prior efforts have all employed a façade of glittering guitars over Persson’s sex-kitten act. Somehow, while they were in the middle of pretending to be a silly pop band, their breakthrough LP, First Band on the Moon, made lounge, disco, and heavy metal sound like the same genre. Turismo displays distinctly computerized American-style modern rock production. They’ve slowed the tempos by half. The deep sampled bass and drumbeats sound like they’re weighing the group down somewhat. But the new songs had a muscularity in
performance that they lack on disc. Uncertainty works better when you have no doubt about it.