Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Crash! Boom! Bang!

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with another selection of choice pop rock cuts from one of Sweden’s finest exports, Roxette. Fans of the band who happen to be following this series may have noticed that I’ve skipped Tourism. Why? Well, it’s basically a live album, although it does have a few new songs never before heard on any of their studio albums. Maybe I’ll cover those at some point, maybe not. What I am doing is listening to their fifth album, one which I know I’ve heard many times but which I can only honestly recall four songs from, at least by looking at the track listing. The album came out in 1995, so by that point I was mostly past caring about them but wouldn’t moan too much if my brother was in control of the car stereo. It’s another long album – fifteen songs topping an hour – so this could take a while. Enjoy!

Harley’s And Indians: I won’t go as far as saying it’s experimental, but it does have a different sound than what we’re used to from the band. If anything it sounds like some of Bon Jovi’s more cowboy inspired hits. The central guitar riff is fairly fat, on the heavy sit of country rock, yet the melodies are pure Roxette. Per takes lead on the vocals with Marie only chiming in slightly in places. There are some dubious insensitive lyrics in there but I’m not sure if they are there for satirical or comedy value. The chorus repeats a few times more than is necessary, we have a suitable harmonica ending, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Crash! Boom! Bang!: I knew I’d heard this one before, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it sounded like until I hit play today. Here’s a weird one – whenever I get a big sudden swoosh of nostalgia when listening to Roxette, it always, always takes me back to me getting dressed in the changing rooms of my local swimming pool. WTF’s that about? Anyway, this came flooding back, and I remember singing this one quite a bit – you know me and my ballads. It’s not quite a top tier ballad by their own standards, but it’s still good. It has a dark tone throughout, lyrically and musically, I appreciate the string interlude in the middle, Marie blasts the vocals with a yearning quality, and there’s a slight hint of mystery and reticence.

Fireworks: This was a single but I don’t have any memory of it, despite the funky intro. Actually, the chorus sounds vaguely familiar but that could be just because it’s similar to something else. Per takes the lead again in the verses, not quite rapping his way along, while the chorus sees Marie taking over and the song adopting a style closer to pop. There’s a dreamy, slow, section in the middle where the band sing ‘they’re coming to get you now’…. who? Fireworks?

Run To You: This is one I remembered just from the name, even if my memory of exactly how it sounded has been clouded by time. It’s a soft rock pop song with some mid-nineties production stuff going on. The melodies are strong enough to cut through anything which could date it, we have plenty of strings again though here they seem unnecessary. Minor key verses, happy choruses… it’s a simple, sweet song.

Sleeping In My Car: Here’s another weird one for you – I can remember the first time I heard this one. it was in the car again, it was played on the radio, and we were driving around the roundabout near our local shopping centre (mall). This is obviously the big single from the album. I think we knew the song was coming up and we were anticipating (me less so) how the band would sound, if they still had the goods, or if they had lost it. I think all of us were fairly impressed. It had abandoned the 80s sound of their previous hits and was now completely 90s, but it was still clearly Roxette. The guitars and melodies were front and centre, and it had a chorus which instantly hooked you. It’s still good now, far from amazing, but good.

Vulnerable: This is the last song from my initial look down the tracklist that I remembered. I do remember thinking this one was more suited to a boyband, which was usually a way teenage me used to say a song was crap. I know I still kind of liked it anyway. It is very nineties hearing it now, but as always I like the strings. Would Marie have been a better choice for the main vocal here? It’s fine, it’s too simpering and whimpering for my liking, even as a ballad, but it’s not terrible.

The First Girl On The Moon: I just had a giggle to myself because the intro to this almost, almost sounds like The Everlasting by the Manic Street Preachers. This one was a surprise because I have no memory of it but actually enjoyed it. It’s a slow one, starts off acoustic, a quaint story, Marie leading the vocals. Some piano comes in for the pre-chorus, actually there isn’t really a chorus so to speak. Just to further the weird Manics comparison, there’s an ‘ooh aah’ vocal piece in the middle. It’s barely three minutes long so feels like one you could play plenty of times and not get bored. Great production on this one.

Place Your Love: This starts off acoustic too, but with Per on main vocals. For the chorus we get the harmonies that made the band famous, though it’s not the best chorus. Was this influenced by Oasis? It feels like it was, however unlikely that sounds. The whole building of tambourine and organ feels like Oasis. It’s simple too. The chorus improves as the song progresses, with wider harmonies and increased backing instrumentation.

I Love The Sound Of Crashing Guitars: You know a band has jumped the shark when they begin writing songs about their own instruments or dinosaurs or something. We can forgive Roxette for such matters… they’ve always been kind of quirky like that. The lyrics are mostly nonsense, the music isn’t anything special, but the melodies and production keep things from being too embarrassing.

What’s She Like: It’s another I don’t remember, even though it seems like one I should – it’s typically the emotive power ballads that stick in my mind – for whatever reason those seemed to capture my imagination as a kid. This is in the style of Things Will Never Be The Same or It Must Have Been Love, but doesn’t quite reach the peaks of fist pumping or teeth gnashing or cheese as those. Melodically and tonally it’s very similar, it starts out quietly and builds gradually. The only thing which feels out of place is the middle eight which takes the song out of minor key territory almost seeming like a different song entirely.

Do You Wanna Go The Whole Way: Always. As a great man once said, there’s no sense in going off half-cocked. Unfortunately this one isn’t overly inspired, though it does start out in a promising manner with lots of strings. The lead riff is kind of catchy and interesting, the lyrics are unintentionally funny – to me at least, but melodically it’s a little too plain to stand out. There’s a slower, trippy section in the middle which tries to changes things up, but I think it hurts the song and isn’t needed.

Lies: This is a weird one, starting off with a fat, fast riff, losing pace with a dull verse, then merging into a garage tinged pre-chorus, before a cheesy pop chorus. It feels like a bunch of ideas for different songs slapped together to make a whole when they didn’t know what else to do, but it’s not terrible.

I’m Sorry: This one feels like a holdover from the 80s, with leading synths and melodies not dissimilar to other hits. I generally don’t like percussion led songs, unless the percussion is something extraordinary – this one doesn’t have much in the way of instrumentation in the verses, and the choruses are even a bit light. The melodies aren’t strong enough to save it, but again it’s brevity means I can’t complain too much.

Love Is All: A long one. Matron. Roxette aren’t known for their long songs, so I’m not sure what this will be like. It begins in classic epic style, with a slow, quiet, drawn out instrumental intro. Marie’s vocals come in, very angelic, repeating a soft hymnal. My immediate sense, even if it isn’t a true comparison, is of a psychedelic Beatles song. The lead vocal melody is simple but sweet, so it doesn’t get annoying even though it’s repeated. Repetition is the name of the game here, with the same few melodies growing and building and being modified slightly – Per takes over vocals at one point for example, while the backing instruments change frequently. It’s a mantra without enough significant variation to stop it becoming monotonous. There’s a change close to the three minute mark as we get some organ and guitar before the mantra continues. It seems like the song is going to fade out after four minutes, but then it soars back in again in Hey Jude style for a celebratory two minute coda – it seems like this was custom built for a set closer.

Go To Sleep: A ballad to finish. It avoids being cheesy and it doesn’t have the big chorus that you would expect. I wouldn’t go so far as saying the last two songs are experimental, but you ca tell that the band were playing with new sounds and techniques. This is another sweet and plaintive song which reminds me of quite a few mid nineties ballads – the ones which avoided going fully for the heartstrings but were content to meander in dreamlike sorrow or joy.

I think a couple of songs could have been trimmed from this – there are quite a few in the middle and second half which, while not bad, end up being to the detriment of the album as a whole. It’s a long listen in a single sitting so it would’t be long before you are drawn to pulling out your favourites and focusing on those instead. The album ends strongly, with two good songs – keep those, the singles, and a few others and you’d have a good album. It’s fine as it is but doesn’t have enough great songs to truly recommend it as a package. Regardless, if you’re a Roxette fan there is a surplus of material here to get your teeth into.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of this one!

Chart Music Through The Years – 1994

Nineteen and ninety four. A year of change, for me and for the world. It was my first year in big school, meeting all these new weirdos and saw me trying to find some new people with similar tastes in music and movies. Most of my closest friends did not pass the good old 11+ exam (a British transfer test which miraculously ensures whether you get into a good school or crap school, though many could cheat and pay for the privilege) and those were the friends that I listened to Guns’n’Roses, Nirvana, and Alice Cooper with. Luckily I met a few like-minded folks, but in April Kurt Cobain decided to kill himself. After that, music sort of seemed shit. Even music I had previously loved. I went through a bit of a faff, listening to nothing, or more accurately I listened to stuff but felt no connection. Naturally that didn’t last and I fell back in love with music again.

The charts of 1994 were an odd place – we had the grunge from the US, the tail-end of 80s rock still hanging on to relevance, europop, boy bands, the continuing emergence of homegrown bedroom DJs and lady singer-songwriters singing about their lady problems. It was a wonderful diverse world away from today’s chart of Tosspot Feat. Wanker taking up every position. There was good and bad, as it should be. Elsewhere in the music world, Blur released Parklife and Oasis released Definitely Maybe, Tupak went to jail, Michael Jackson married a Presley, Jeff Buckley released Grace,  and Woodstock 94 happened. In the rest of the world, Clinton and Yeltsin made sure no nukes would be flying, Lillehammer had some Olympics, Ayrton Senna crashed and burned, The Channel Tunnel opened, and a bunch of my favourite movies were released. What of October’s Top Ten Singles?

1: Pato Banton: Baby Come Back

This is one of those one hit wonders that was everywhere this year, and another which is almost entirely self contained within the year of its release. To add to the annoyance, it was a cover too, of a song from twenty years earlier. Make things worse by throwing in people from UB40 – one of my most hated bands ever. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in music, it’s anyone who isn’t Bob Marley doing reggae. So you get all these British guys adopting this culture and accent that they may or may not have anything to do with, and making shitty sub-standard knock offs with faux accents. In short – this is terrible. The only good thing about this is that I still will randomly shout ‘but a bye bye bye bye, bada bye bye by bye’.

2: Whigfield: Saturday Night

This was a beast when it arrived, a one-hit wonder which transcended that odious nomenclature and permeated into pop culture. As a pop song it’s still perplexing as to why it became such a monster, but these are questions we’ll never find answers to. I suspect it had something to do with ecstasy. And yet, it’s a perfectly good pop/dance song. It’s repetitive as hell but there’s a cheery likeability to it, no doubt partly due to Whigfield’s smiling Scandinavian otherness. You can usually gauge a song’s true quality in direct relation to how much young girls dance to it – I have clear memories of roaming the streets near my house with my friends shortly after this was released and stumbling upon a group of girls from my school dancing and ‘doing makeup’ to it in their living room. Zoe – I’m looking at you. Somehow it remains both dreadful and not bad at the same time.

3: Bon Jovi: Always

I’ve been going through the Bon Jovi albums elsewhere on this blog and this was always one of my favourites. I loved it upon release and I happily defend it now. Yes it’s cheesy and yes it’s Bon Jovi, but as far as well written effective rock ballads go, there are few better.

4: Take That: Sure

I mean, I avoided Take That as much as I possibly could back in the day, so looking at that song name I don’t have any memory of what this is. Watching the video in the link above for the first time presents a rather creepy introduction, with the lads swarming around a child and asking if she’s ready for bed. Why in God’s name is it seven minutes long? Was this the group trying to channel Michael or Madonna and make a video which was something more than an excuse to smile and unbutton their shirts? I’m gonna have to skip forward because this is painful. Oh fuck, here comes Robbie. Three minutes and still nothing has happened. Finally the song begins and what the balls is this? What in the name of all that is holy went wrong in peoples’ lives that made anyone this happen? Arguably the most bland song I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard Dido.

5. Michelle Gayle: Sweetness

The 80s gets all the credit for being a decade of WTF, but with stuff like this you’d be forgiven in thinking the 90s should take the hotspot. Michelle Gayle was an actress in Eastenders who had a brief series of hits after leaving the soap. That kind of thing used to happen a lot, but to her credit at least she had more than one. I never liked this, but ironically I find myself singing the chorus every so often. The weird thing is that I don’t really remember the verses and when I sing the chorus I always do it with a strange accent and a faster pace which makes me think it must have been parodied somewhere and I’m doing that version instead. Otherwise I created my own parody when it came out and that’s what’s stayed with me. It’s not very good, just your typical slice of British 90s R’n’B – read – standard pop but with a black singer instead of white.

6: R Kelly: She’s Got That Vibe

Well. I’m not sure what we can really say about R Kelly these days. If I’m honest, I don’t remember him being all that relevant before Space Jam. Or after. I didn’t know that’s who did this song. Your typical light, commercial rap bollocks. Give it credit for a catchy chorus, but keeping things honest – it’s balls.

7: Cyndi Lauper: Hey Now

I like Cyndi Lauper. This is her basically remaking her best known song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but with added ‘hey nows’ and a slower pace and more annoying production.

8: Snap: Welcome To Tomorrow

Snap. Is that who I’m thinking of? No. No it’s not. And once again, what the balls is this? Look at the state of that video! Even in 94 this looked worse that Liza Minelli’s feces. There aren’t strong enough words to describe how bad this is – musically, visually. I don’t remember this at all, thank fuck, and I hope by tomorrow I’ve forgotten it again. Ladies and Gentleman, may I present to you, the Human Race. Yes, this actually happened. Someone wrote this, someone made this, and people actually paid money to own it. Looking at the comments, people still enjoy it. Reasons we should get nuked #42319877. The only positive thing I can say about this is ‘hey look, that lady has her legs spread’.

9: Sting: When We Dance

Sting was apparently still alive in the 90s. Who woulda known? I do remember this one. It was okay then and it’s okay now. Still bland and uneventful, but then it is Sting.

10: Lisa Loeb: Stay

Finally, one I actually liked at the time. What’s not to like, for younger me? A hot girl with that not-quite grunge look looking at the camera and singing sweetly. It’s not great or anything, but it does have that 90s grrl charm which bled into other artists and shows I enjoyed more.

That’s definitely a snapshot of parts of my childhood right there, and definitely a look at what was popular on these shores. It’s not a great depiction of what was actually good in 1994 though – it was genuinely an excellent year for music – so here’s my alternative playlist.

1: Alice In Chains – Nutshell

2: Green Day – Basket Case

3: Oasis – Live Forever

4: Jeff Buckley – Lover, You Should Have Come Over

5: Portishead – Roads

6: Soundgarden – The Day I Tried To Live

7: Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You

8: Tori Amos – Baker, Baker

9: Pantera – 5 Minutes Alone

10: Pink Floyd – Lost For Words

What are your favourite songs and memories of 1994? Let us know in the comments!

UK Top 40 # 6 – 5

Check out the original post here: https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

After over 30 songs, I’ve finally found one I liked in the last post. Lets hope we get one more.

6: Wasn’t Expecting That – Jamie Lawson (never heard of you)

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Ok guitars. Disaster vocals. I wasn’t expectinah? Sounds like that fool from Fine Young Cannibals crossed with Tracey Chapman. The melodies are ok, the introduction of the piano is nice, but the vocals are dreadful. It’s another song that is clearly supposed to be emotive and emotional, but falls completely flat for me. It tells a sad story yes, but the music and vocals need to be better. It appears to be about death.

5: The Hills – The Weekend (never heard of you)

I’ve heard one of this guy’s songs already, right? I can’t remember. Moaning vocals from inside a box, annoying clicks and squeals as backing music. Chorus marginally better. It feels moody, which I like, but it’s more generic sex crap. I actually like the high pitched piece in the middle, probably because it’s a complete (unintentional) rip of Kate Bush. If the lyrics were actually about something, and if the irritating noises were replaced then this would be decent. It appears to be about sex.

We’re almost done. What has everyone thought so far? Let us know in the comments!