THE CARDIGANS Gran Turismo (Stockholm)

What, no Black Sabbath covers? Despite their versions of "Iron Man" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" entering legend as some of the most improbably lovely heavy metal covers ever commited to tape, The Cardigans’ fourth long player does without songwriting assistance from the band formerly known as Earth, making do insread with an apparent toughening up of their own pen skills, all things being relative, of course.

What this means is that nothing on "Gran Turismo" will be blasting out of mulitplexes for months to come (unlike "Lovefool"), or jangles like The Byrds reborn as an Abba tribute band (the sublime "Rise And Shine, from their second album "Life"). Setting more modest and darker goals means that instead you find doomy electro-lite with mild New Order and Garbage overtones that actually works rather well. You may have heard the first single "My Favourite Game", which is all well and good but pales in comparison with "Erase/Rewind", which the sticker on the jewel box (yep, it’s sadly not out on vinyl) suggests will be the next single: think what Abba’s "Summer Night City" would’ve sounded like if Tricky were in the producer’s chair and you’d be as near the mark as any other description could get.

A similarly doomy vibe pervades "Explode", which the lyric police might well assume to be about drugs ("You rely on/What you get high on/And you last just as long as it serves you") - not exactly the kind of terriroty you’d expect a band of chart-friendly Swedes to be mapping out. Then there’s the rambling loveliness of "Junk Of The Heart", a shrug to dissolving relationships. Admittedly not all of "Gran Turismo" hits the high notes like this, but compared to something like the last Saint Etienne album (which itself boasted a high level of Cardigans involvement) you never get the feeling you’ve been cheated. And the last track, "Nil", is two minutes of scary piano music, almost exactly the same as the 17 seconds of scary piano music that closes CD copies of the new Smashing Pumpkins album...which suggests, by implication, that maybe they haven’t moved that far away from Black Sabbath after all.