The Cardigans’ “Communication”: A Tribute Through Time

The Cardigans is one of my favourite bands. I only got into them near the end of 2022, after liking what I heard from Todd in the Shadows’ video on their number one hit “Lovefool“, but I love their music so much I feel confident in considering them so highly. Their debut album Emmerdale is brilliant, I absolutely adore the first few songs from Life (“Carnival”, “Gordon’s Gardenparty”, “Daddy’s Car”), and Gran Turismo is a superb mood piece of melancholic synth-rock.

Emmerdale came out 30 years ago today, and I wanted to try and celebrate that by discussing something I stumbled across some months ago. The Cardigans never delved into animation for their many music videos, but back in 2014, motion graphic designer Dale Scheihagen created a video based on “Communication”, the opening track for their 2003 album Long Gone Before Daylight.

It’s gotten quite popular over the years, with the upload on the YouTube channel The Cardifans reaching more than a million views. A big part of that’s due to the attention “Communication” as a whole has received thanks to Miley Cyrus covering the song as part of her Backyard Sessions in 2020. I like to think it also got some attention because it’s a nice animation.

I’m admittedly biased since I quite like “Communication”; it’s probably my favourite song from that album (and I think it works better than the Miley cover, apologies to fans). The video itself uses heavy amounts of rotoscoping as a base for its animation, which is a technique I’m a huge sucker for. Even using it as all is going to get my approval, but I’m quite struck by how it’s used here.

Scheihagen used footage of The Cardigans from all sorts of places, including concert performances, music videos, and interviews. The way it’s presented, with linework fading in and out against shifting backgrounds, gives the video an impressionist vibe. I feel like you’re watching someone’s memories of the band, where the inconsistent detail in the linework mirrors the way you’d remember some things with infinitely more clarity than others.

You recall a certain smile on someone’s face, the little hops the guitarist made during a particular live show, or how a couple of the members acted round each other in some behind the scenes b-roll. But memories are ultimately still a bit fuzzy, and miscellaneous details like the place or other people fade away. It looks quite beautiful, especially the shift in style after the second chorus where the linework starts to break down and reform itself throughout the various shots.

What I really dug about the video is that it doesn’t stick with a specific era of the band for its footage. It uses so many sources that you’re seeing The Cardigans’ appearances changing constantly between shots. As the band’s most prominent member, it’s easy to see this with Nina Persson as her hair and clothes regularly change, but this is equally true for Peter Svensson, Magnus Sveningsson, Lars-Olof Johansson and Bengt Lagerberg.

Everybody’s given the same amount of attention, and it feels like a fitting tribute to the band as a whole. There’s almost something fourth-dimensional about it, where the linear passage of time doesn’t matter and all eras of The Cardigans are shown to be existing together at the same time. Now that I think about it, that’s not too far removed from what it’s like to listen to their music, or for any music that’s been produced long enough ago.

Listening to any music track, on some level you’re listening to it in relation to where the band was, where they were at the time, where they would go and so on. Even if you’re not aware or aren’t interested to know about that history, the music still exists in implicit dialogue with the body of work surrounding it. The Cardigans exist in various styles and states, from their earliest known demos from 1992 to their most recent live shows in 2024, and they all exist together.

This kind of weird co-existence is particularly true because the band’s story is one that’s already been told. Their final album was released all the way back in 2005, over 18 years ago as of writing this, and there are no plans to put out anything else. All the possibilities for what The Cardigans could be have been explored and now co-exist; they’re the band that did “Lovefool”, the band that did playful covers of Black Sabbath songs, the band that dived into a country-rock sound, the band that experimented with moody electronic rock, the band of young adults trying things out, the band of middle-aged veterans playing old classics.

They’re all of these things and much more at any moment in time, and that’s reflected in both their music and Scheihagen’s music video. I never would have thought about this idea if not for that video, and I’m thankful for the chance to consider things from such an admittedly esoteric perspective.

FrDougal9000 writes for as Apollo Chungus. When he isn’t writing about video games, he is cultivating his love of animation that’s only increased over the last few years as he’s explored the wide, weird and wonderful world of the medium.

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