Thursday, 29 October 2009

Crush On You

Roxette Challenge Dannii To A Re-Release Off!
As a confused gay I have had a few phases of hetro-crushes in my younger years - obviously I just wanted to be these women ('obviously'), but my infatuation with peroxide punkstress Marie Fredrikkson was love at first sight. Her bleeding outpour of soulfully damaged ballads and punchy appetite for rock deliveries established a visceral attraction that remains undiminished. And so Roxette have re-released their studio albums with bonus tracks for good measure - obviously Dannii Minogue was making them feel bad with her recent deluxe edition release schedule.

The career-best Joyride album's first bonus track is the shy and mellow ballad The Sweet Hello, The Sad Goodbye, wherein joyful strumming verses spiral into melancholic heaven. If you can't picture yourself skipping to this in a field, then you clearly have a knack for not getting carried away for tossed off ballads. 'You know you're not the only one who knows how to cry' and 'we're very much the same' and tender offerings we all crave to hear, and Marie's aching voice is the perfect instrument for such wistfully tear-blurred sentimental vulnerability.

Love Spins operates a similar feel to other tracklisted Per vocal led tracks, particularly the awesome Knockin' On Every Door, and so it is little wonder they slammed the shutters on this one. A faultlessly perfunctory track. Violins provide massaging comfort on the Marie-drenched ballad Seduce Me with the finger-snapping sass I love them for and has the singer on fine form, grunting 'hey you' with remarkable bravery for self-introduction as ever.

Look Sharp's sought-after scintilating glamour makes it my favourite Roxette album: Marie's wind-defying quiff survives the bullet-firing 'na-na-na-na-na-na' chorus she unforgettably delivers. Cry is bizarrely their best song - it could have been sung by any of the greats and yet criminally is an album track! The shimmering champagne-fizzing dance-ballad I Could Never Give You Up is the set's other lost single and should have been another American number 1. And so the first bonus track is The Voice, which utilizes I Could Never's thunderstorm drums and glistening synths. Picking up the pace is the demo One Is Such A Lonely Number, which sounds like a generic Gloria Estefan album track - no life can be injected to such lyrics as 'make the world go around' but Roxette fans are under no illusion. The next 1987 demo, Don't Believe In Accidents, is quite a harsh anti-abortion stance, but I am sure there is a reason they aborted this mistake (the music sounds like the theme to UK TV show Casualty at one point).

I am not too familiar with their debut album Pearls of Passion (great title as it is!), but Soul Deep has always been one of their best stompers, with the most usurping whooooaaah yeah's I have ever heard - it makes Duffy and her cronies look a bit desperate, demonstrating vividly that whatever direction they take seems effortless, as here they channel 60s doo-wop into gurning prowling. The dramatic So Far Away is stark and agonising, which might be too theatrical for its own good, but I happen to love it. And so bonus track 1 is the Tits And Ass Demo 1986 of Neverending Love - the single has never left much of an imprint on me, but their dynamic is being put in place, yet it is a tad twee for my thirst for their raddled-faced, earthquaking ballads and rock numbers. Equally polite, the TAAD of Secrets That She Keeps is an acoustic turn for Per's stubble-bristling vocals to rub you down like a nail file.

Room Service is a worth all their previous triumphs, it really is a solid and surprising album: the high voltage of You Make My Head Go Pop would make Shania Twain blush with envy, Marie's self-penned Little Girl is a standout amongst their best work, and the ballads are par excellence for their unassuming beauty. The rippling electro and thorny guitars on the bruised Entering Your Heart are divine, it's a majestic ballad and Marie sings so sweetly it is impossible not to feel as if you are about to melt into ice cream at the mercy of Michelle McManus. The piano-led love song The Weight of The World showcases another gristling Per lead, and, well there you go. Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla (You Broke My Heart) is on the money for its aliterated repition as it's such a b-b-b-b-b-side if ever I heard one, it plods with distinctly Roxette-the-Beatles-were-a-huge-inspiration-you-know-piano-thuds.

When I was 8 years old I had lost my first set of friends and so beyond school had no idea I should really have found replacements, and so at school I went away on camp without realizing I would need to share a dorm with some mates. Well fancy that, after an embarassing crying fit, behind the scenes figures of authority obviously arranged classmates to ask me. I'm drifting, but basically when away I wanted the intriguing Tourism album as it was my chosen 'reward' for going. I still remember getting a letter from my Mother whilst on location at this camp, reading that she had bought it for me. I still remember kneeling by the CD player in the livingroom like listening to Roxette was the only thing that I cared about. Who needs social development when you have music to absorb yourself in? I was always disappointed and confused by their arrangement of It Must Have Been love, by hey-ho - Fingertips was amazing, Marie's rise-and-fall 2nd verse, The Rain's stunning celtic cheese-fest was to die for ('I was raised the Northern way' always raises a smile) with it's chugging sense of drama and quivering kiss-clenching, and Silver Blue remains one of their finest ever ballads. Okay, so bonus-wise we have the single edit of Fingertips and a vocal-switch of Cinammon.

Have A Nice Day came out of nowhere in 1999 and it was remarkably up to the challenge of shifting units amongst Britney, Cher and Destiny's Child, but after the sultry orchestra of I Wish I Could Fly settled itself on the UK charts at #11, the record company rudely gave up. The startling head-spinning rush of Stars, with Marie's frostbite vocals going hell for leather in dancefloor pursuit, was simply head and shoulders their craziest track since Joyride - the chart climate was ripe for this track to impact itself, but whatever. Special mention goes to Marie's gunpoint vocals on the ceaselessly amazing Crush On You. It Hurts is the tear-dripping ballad bonus track, widely available for some time, with great 'come down' poise that Massive Attack would be proud to reel in Tracy Thorn for. Myth has a guitar riff that sounds like the sitcom Friends theme tune, a bar-rocker track with a tough vocal from Marie - 'I love your myth' is great fun, especially when you are listening to your idol singing it. Makin' Love Tou You isn't fully committed - they aren't about to go wrong, but it's too gentle to fully penetrate (unless they don't mind you drifting off whilst they 'perform'), and Marie's vocals are thin like how she sung most of the next album....

1994's Crash! Boom! Bang! album slightly disloged my obsession for the band. I loved Marie's cackling delivery on lead single Sleeping In My Car, but it was crammed full of atmospheric songs that ran short of fuel in my opinion. Some fantastic ghostly vocals were in place, but it was lacking something overall. The lush soundtrack single Almost Unreal is included - a UK top 10 and one of the few videos to feature some proper beauty shots of Marie (those black eyebrows always set her cheekbones off like no one's business). The wilting verses are so inviting before we are bitch-slapped by their trademark sensitivity - 'I love how you do the hocus pocus to me' is adorably clumsy and of course was meant for the song to feature on the Bette Midler starring film Hocus Pocus. The twee verses to Crazy About You are their stock-and-trade and we have another 'hello' quaking chorus - maybe Per goes speed-dating far too often as these welcoming greetings are starting to grate. The floaty ballad See Me drifts away nicely, much like Go To Sleep did on the original sequence (Enya eat your heart out).

Roxette are eternally poignant and never fail to charm with their obsession for personal hand-shaking lyrics. If they return for one last hurrah I for one cannot wait.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous review!!!

Paul said...

Great reviews Gordon! I like what I read :-)

Come and give a visit. Roxette are currently on a tour as part of Night Of The Proms. They are performing five of their biggest hits (The Look, Listen To Your Heart, Joyride, It Must Have Been Love and Wish I Could Fly) as part of 40+ shows through Europe.

realsugar said...

Amazing review. I cannot wait for the new album. With a studio setup in one of the hotel rooms while they are on Night of the Proms, you know that they are just going to be recording the most amazing stuff. Tourisim 2? =D
Get your hands on Gessle Over Europe. You'll love how many Rox song where Marie was the lead voclas. LTYH, WICH and QOR just to name a few.

Diva Incarnate said...

Well I'm doubled over that you linked me up, Paul - when I update my links I'll attach your site, it looks good!

Tourism 2 would be great to capture Marie tentatively regaining full control of her abilities - I'd imagine the inhale of breath, as a fan, before her first notes on opening night would have been enormous.

Her influence is everywhere - I wish Pink would come out an cite her, as her stuff is all Marie. Not to mention all the girls (and boys) these days with short and styled peroxide haircuts...

QH said...

You know, "Almost Unreal" was set for the Disney film "Hocus Pocus" with Bette Midler, but didn't make it for some reason I forget. So it was tapped for the "Mario Bros." film and soundtrack, but the "hocus pocus" lyric stayed.

I only own the standard versions of "Look Sharp!," "Room Service," and just reently acquired "Have a Nice Day" which has lodged itself into one of my favorite pop records ever. HaND also cements my theory on European & British pop music having a certain air that elevates it above standard American pop, though I love my U.S. pop, there is something there that lends to more freedom. Hard to put a finger on it. "Wish I Could Fly" is classy, '90's balladry, great video. "Cursh On You" is great, you really hear how Per influenced Darren Hayes of Savage Garden ("I Want You").-Quentin

Diva Incarnate said...

Well Darren has never cited Per as an influece - the most obvious case would be SG's I Want You and Roxette's Centre of The Heart (which was originally intended for Have A Nice Day).

Almost Unreal was a UK top ten, so the Hocus Pocus thing might have only really affected them in America. Of course, Crash! Boom! Bang! was not the percieved US failure as it sold quite well after the McDonalds deal was factored in.

Roxette definately aimed their sound to take them beyond Sweden, but their US breakthrough story is of course quite well known.

I'd recommend the bonus tracks The Sweet Hello, The Sad Goodbye and Entering Your Heart. Marie sound gorgeous on both of them. After Joyride, she lost that husky, smokey tone to her voice and seemed to favour a more sharper and restraint tone (although she said in one 1994 interview that she was singing deeper for some reason after giving birth, but I disagree). Anyway, the difference is very evident if you listen to both these songs from almost 10 years apart.

I'm quite worried about how Marie is, her confidence has certainly been knocked a little due to her recent experience, and whilst her vocal on Speak To Me is divine and majestic as we'd expect, singing live is another story. She has always sang differently live, but when you see her looking so frail I think this enhances the concerns I have.

Anyway, I truly love them, they were my first musical obsession and I am going to be seeing them in November, which I am looking forward to.

I can't remember if I wrote about the new album, but it's very nice. To me it was Tourism 2, which is ironic given that they are officially making Tourism 2 right now.

Their audience in South America is as loyal as ever, and in Germany they reached the top of the charts and broke into the top ten singles charts with the swanky, but Per-driven She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio) (a very Look Sharp! era style song title).

The Kleerup remix of Reveal was stunning, so it was a tad disappointing that they didn't collaborate outside the box for Charm School, but 'classic Roxette' has been their agenda for a while now. I hope they can aim for (the) Stars again, as it were.

QH said...

"Charm School" & "Crash! Boom! Bang!" are my next to get for Roxette. I was happy to hear she pulled through that tumor scare. I started buying their records two summer's ago, though I liked them a lot as a kid.

She & Per are pretty musical, which is what I like about them. "Stars" really is nice, very pretty.-Quentin