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The Cardigans

Tentative Nordic-pop fans who equate the genre with Roxette can lower their cowering guard. The Cardigans' yummy bubble-gum ditties take 50 instruments to construct; as a result, the songs blend and quiver with ear-pleasing originality. The soap opera-ish synths that begin "Carnival" open up to sinewy strings, vibes and a swinging bass, and lead vocalist Åsa Håkansson sings like a shy songbird with a snifter of heated brandy in hand. "Tomorrow" resembles a missing Martha Reeves and the Vandellas track with its hopeful chorus, horn blasts and a tight snare. The obvious single is the spry "Rise and Shine," a song only Heavenly at its most caffeinated could rival. Life is a beguiling bachelor-pad soundtrack for swingers. The band is webbed at The Cardigans Home Page. (Todd S. Inoue)

Samarai Celestial
Isis Sun
Carrot Top

The spirit of Sun Ra, the real E.T., suffuses Samarai Celestial's debut, which makes sense, seeing as how he was the late bandleader's drummer for the first half of the '80s. If you've never heard of Celestial, you're not alone, but his six-year-stint with Sun Ra's Intergalactic Cosmo Love Adventure Arkestra is right there in his impressively lengthy résumé. Isis Sun is a fairly interesting takeoff on Ra's spaced-out Africentric universe; it is certainly futuristic sounding but funky as well--imagine early Funkadelic (specifically Maggot Brain's "Wars of Armageddon") sans Eddie Hazel's fretwork and booted up on some relentless rave-trance groove. To cap the analogy, Samarai's otherworldly raps have a definite (George) Clintonian ring to them. For him, rhythm is everything--a universe unto itself--and the drummer harnesses layers of complex rhythmic tracks and splinters of cosmic synth in pursuit of meditations on outer and inner space. This isn't "jazz," dance or New Age but a weird yet seamless synthesis of same. (Nicky Baxter)

Citizen Fish
Millennia of Madness

Just like Public Enemy and Crass, Citizen Fish's pointed attacks on government ills are way too subversive to attract the drooling masses. While some bands peek through the front window and scribble down what happens, Citizen Fish flings the curtains open, leaps through plate glass and goes face to face with the oppressors. Unlike Public Enemy and Crass, Citizen Fish wraps its pro-people messages in aggro pop, bouncy ska and heavy brass for punctuation. Lead vocalist Dick bellows as if addressing his believers from the back of a pickup truck. "Refugees Go West" addresses ethnic cleansing and racial tolerance. "Backlash" is like a follow-up to the Specials' "Ghost Town"--substituting club violence for Prop. 187's ill will. Yes, a little rhetoric goes a long way, and Citizen Fish is outspoken, but with the amount of mindless drivel passing for music, Citizen Fish offers an intelligent alternative. (TSI)

Wynona Riders
J.D. Salinger

What a punk-pop cash-out this is. The band cops the little woman's name, Catcher in the Rye's graphics and Molly Hatchet's southern-rock pyrotechnics. The Riders' are really reaching for the brass ring with J.D. Salinger, filling the album with many of the popular-selling themes of the day: from self-deprecation ("Drownded," "Crazy Man") to soupy love songs ("No You Suck," "Childhood Game"). Are they serious? The biggest clue comes at the end with a Sex Pistols cover ("The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle") and a nine-minute dance epic ("Bogus Track") that pulls the welcome mat from underneath you (which is what the Web site The Wynona Riders Gateway to Fun does too). Ouch. Nice try, you bastards. (TSI)

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From the Dec. 7-14, 1995 issue of Metro

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