Remembering: Cartoons!

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After the phenomenal success of Aqua in 1997 and 1998, UK record labels were uncharacteristically eager to sign the sort of scandipop that they’d never have dreamed of touching a few years before. What’s more, they weren’t just interested in signing a one-off hit, they wanted to sign an act with longevity that would give hit single after hit single, and an album that would sell by the volvo load! That’s how this lot slipped through – and thank heavens they did!

And so in 1999 we were treated to an invasion of some pretty fucked up music from Denmark! Cartoons arrived in a flurry of plastic and colour, their visible noise easily matching the tunage they were releasing (or ‘Toonage’ as they liked to name it, and their debut album). And if folk were of the inclination to be put off by their image (plastic cartoon incarnations of your typical fifties rock stars), then they were almost certainly the type of person to absolutely detest their music (they coined the term, and probably the genre ‘technobilly’ – fifties rock-a-billy, merged with techno, funnily enough!). Instantly dismissed as novelty bubblegum pop – rather than being praised for being so, when their music defied snobbery to sell in massive amounts and stay around in the charts, the h8rz felt compelled to let everyone around them know how annoyed they were about the fact. But as for the ones who were actually buying the music, well we were very happy indeed!

‘Witchdoctor’ was the first we heard of them. Epitomising exactly what Cartoons were all about, it was a techno cover of a famous fifties novelty rock track, with a video that saw them romp through an animated story. It was the biggest hit of their career, even making number 2 in the UK and staying around for ages. As a result, EMI brought them over here for the summer and put them on every children’s tv show going, brightening up every broadcast they were presented on. As with Aqua, people bought into the reality that they were an actual band making music, with an album, rather than it just being the type of one-off novelty single that we had been used to songs that sounded like ‘Witchdoctor’ and ‘Barbie Girl’ being. They were interviewed on television and in pop music magazines, although admittedly, the comments never amounted to anything more than crafted gibberish. Regardless, they were popular. And when the second single, ‘Doo Dah’ was released a few months later, it became another top 10 hit for them – peaking at number 7. The video was different to their first, but it still kept the fifties theme intact. For the ‘Doo Dah’ video, the set was a fifties American drive through, where everyone had come to see a Cartoons performance on the big screen.

After ‘Doo Dah’, the album came out. ‘Toonage’ was ten tracks of more of the same really. Not all of them were techno backed, a few were more easy listening rock-a-billy. But they were all catchy and all actually really good in their own way. Ok, it sounds odd describing ‘Let’s Go Childish’ and ‘Ramalama Daisy’ as ‘’really good’’, but they were! The emphasis was always on the melody and every track was crafted with the intention of it being easy and enjoyable to sing along to. ‘Toonage’ went top 20 in the UK, but was even more successful in their native Denmark. It peaked at number 2, but rarely left the top 20 in 1998 or 1999. In fact for both years, it was amongst the top 20 biggest selling albums of the year. And this was at a time when Denmark were nowhere near as starved of bubblegum pop as we were in the UK! Cartoons stuck around in the UK to release one more single, ‘Aisy Waisy’, which also went top 20. Again, it had a video that looked like it had overdosed on skittles! This one was set on a farm, where they wake up, go to work, and then perform at a barn dance. All good wholesome fun!

Unfortunately though, that was the last we heard of them, in the UK at least. They went on to release a second album, ‘Toontastic’, in Denmark in 2000, but it didn’t do anywhere as well as the first one. This, coupled with the fact that the second Aqua album didn’t take off in the UK when it came out earlier that year either, made EMI decide not to push the second album in the UK. No wonder EMI are in such financial trouble now, eh?! Denmark were blessed with a greatest hits album five years later though – ‘Greatest Toons’ even included some new tracks. But unfortunately it looks like Cartoons are long gone from music.

Totally ridiculous, but amazing!

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