Monday, 1 August 2011
100 LPs Shortlist #14: Roxette - "Look Sharp!"
Ok. Guilty pleasure time, folks.
All right, I cannot tell a lie. I've had a soft spot for these guys since I was in high school. And you know what? Their music STILL holds up as some of the best Europop ever created. You've seen Eurovision, right? Roxette put anything in that competitions cheesy, tacky, questionable music history to shame.
ABBA may have been the Swedes of choice for the baby boomers, but the GenX-ers dug Roxette. Per Gessle could really write a tune, and Marie could really sing. They may have been marketed as a pop band, but they could really ROCK. They wrote some of the best power pop songs ever, especially into the 1990s.
"Look Sharp!" was released internationally in 1988. It was their second LP. Their first, "Pearls of Passion" was a hit only in Sweden, it bombed everywhere else. Not that it matters - "Look Sharp!" was streets ahead of it in terms of songwriting. If there's one problem with this, it's the thin, synth-washed production that was so endemic on records in the 1980s. Underneath the gloss, remains some excellent songs that had more substance than your average pop band could muster.
They had tried 3 singles off the LP, and they were all flops. Single number 4, "The Look", hit big - #1 in over one dozen countries. Not bad for a track whose lyrics were just something to fill in a gap for a guide vocal before the real words were written. Different words were never invented, these ones were so good.
Soon after, the previous flops were re-issued: "Dressed For Success" was first, and it found its way into the top 10. Next, a ballad - "Listen to your Heart" was up there too. Single #2 "Dangerous" was reissued and it followed suit. Soon they were one of the biggest bands in the world.
Between 1988 and 1995, the band had 14 top 10 hits in America, which isn't bad for a band whose native tongue reminds one of the Chef on the Muppet Show. English isn't their first language, but they managed to make memorable songs better than most who grow up with a good command of the language!
What is below is the original album, as it was on the CD. The vinyl and Cassette didn't contain track 11 "I Could Never Give You Up" which was issued as the b-side of "Listen To Your Heart", and for my money, it didn't need to be there. the 12 track LP was spot on as it was. But I digress.
If there's any flat spot at all on this record, it's the somewhat bland "Cry" which concludes the original side 1 of the album. What's left is a series of songs that can be neatly divided into one of two categories - upbeat pop/rock tunes laden with melody, and ballads laden with melody. Such is the dichotomy of the group that their best work can be neatly split into those two categories (so much so that they released two best of records in the early 2000's "The Pop Hits" and "The Ballad Hits", thus illustrating my point).