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!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Tonight!

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in Bowieville today with an album I know absolutely nothing about. Most of the Bowie albums, even though I had not previously listened to them, I was at least aware of their name or their popularity or success. This one I don’t recall ever hearing of, so my first assumption is that it was not well received. Lets check the tracklist… oh. Is this a cover album? It seems like at least half of the songs are covers… that usually means a quick rush job to capitalize on success and keep things ticking over while you plan your actual next album. Right, all signs point towards this not being great, but I hope I’m wrong.

Loving The Alien: Well, this certainly starts out with an 80s vibe – that dreadful 80s drum sound is here in full force, but the overall 80s vibe isn’t too cheesy, instead hitting the right nostalgic chord with me. The vocals… I’m not sure yet whether they are okay are annoying…. bit of both really. Great bridge between verse and chorus. It’s just a tad odd, not enough to put most people off, but just odd enough for people to mutter ‘wtf is this’ to themselves while still liking it. I haven’t, or can’t pay attention to the lyrics here… seems to be something about religion? A good guitar solo/off kilter string section in the middle, leads to a longer instrumental section which is mostly a repetition of the main melody along with strings. Then a guitar solo. Just an extended jam to close. This was perfectly fine – not amazing, not bad, interesting.

Don’t Look Down: Neon drenched steamy US detective show. With added reggae. I’m not a fan of the whole white boy reggae thing. I don’t think I’ve heard the original. It’s slow. Pretty one-note, doesn’t change much from minute to minute. Nothing wrong, but I wouldn’t choose to listen to it again.

God Only Knows: Hmm, well it’s different enough from the original. Very deep vocals, made into more of a drone than what The Beach Boys did. I like the string parts and the stutters. Added horns.

Tonight: You know it’s the 80s when people duet with Tina Turner. More reggae, so not to my tastes. I would enjoy this song much more if they didn’t go for that style, as it’s quite sweet and soothing. I think I’ve heard the original, but can’t remember it at the moment.

Neighbourhood Threat: So, it’s A View To A Kill. Man, this reeks of a lost 80s power rock classic. Again, I’ve probably heard the original, but can’t recall it. Still, this is my favourite on the album since the opener.

Blue Jean: There is a consistent sound and tone throughout the album, I’ll give it that. And even with all the 80s stuff, it never becomes too 80s.

Tumble And Twirl: This one is a little bit reggae, a little disco, and a little 80s rock. Too many horns for my liking. Turns into a bit of a dancing bonanza. Goes on a bit.

I Keep Forgettin: This isn’t overly different from the original, retaining a streamlined old fashioned rock and roll feel. Definitely feels like a bit of random B material.

Dancing With The Big Boys: With all the Iggy covers it only seems fitting to close on a song which features him. Drums feel like the opening to another Bond song. Guitar kind of follows that line of thought. Too many trumps for my liking, as is the case many many times. This comes across as just another average, forgettable rock song.

So, a consistently 80s sounding record without falling into the usual trappings of 80’s guff. It still sounds like a Bowie album, even if a lot of the songs are covers, and unlike many of the other stars of the 70s who struggled to keep up with the new decade. I’d likely only listen to two of the songs again, and the rest is miscellaneous take it or leave it stuff. Not good, not bad, very indifferent. At least it wasn’t an embarrassment, but it’s not one I’ll remember. Let us know your thoughts on Tonight in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Loving The Alien. Neighbourhood Threat.

Nightman Listens To Bon Jovi – Have A Nice Day

Have_a_Nice_Day_Bon_Jovi_album

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with another slice of MOR tunes courtesy of those mulleted 80s minstrels Bon Jovi. Last time around we checked out Bounce, and since that album the band released two curios – This Left Feels Right which was basically updated versions of classics, and that one about millions of fans which was a boxset of some sort. Have A Nice Day was their ninth studio album, and their first of original music in three years. I’ve heard the title track on this one but beyond that I don’t recognise any of the other songs listed below. Maybe listening with refresh my memories.

Have A Nice Day: This has always been a straight-forwards, no nonsense rocker with an inspirational set of lyrics with just enough rebellion to bridge the gap between chart sensibility and those looking for something just a touch harder. It’s a step down from It’s My Life but for most people probably not noticeably so. You should know the score with their hits now – big chorus that forces you to shout along.

I Want To Be Loved: This opens like a very specific Bryan Adams song but soon transforms into what feels like an under the radar Bon Jovi hit. It’s very middle of the road and commercial but it continues the inspirational theme – not giving up, always fighting and all that. The verses aren’t the most adventurous but they do build nicely and allow the two part chorus to be the focal point. It’s another good chorus but the song as a whole never reaches that top gear to tip it into their upper echelon songs.

Welcome To Wherever You Are: A soft intro, so assuming we’re in ballad territory. This one has a video, so assuming it was a single. Nice enough verses, again with a focus on the self – don’t be hard on yourself, you’ll be okay, you’re in control, chin up etc. It’s another B grade Bon Jovi song – good, probably feels better to me than it actually is because it hasn’t been over-exposed, but not any chance of it being promoted to the A grade status.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home: Bon Jovi have always been a band about lifting your spirits up – musically, lyrically, and making you feel good, but this is four songs on the trot which are specifically about those very ideas. This one has a very nineties video which adds a nice touch of nostalgia for me. It sounds very much like a song I can’t quite put my finger on, but it’s so damn happy that I don’t care. I believe I have heard this one before and while it’s most likely a B Grade for them, it’s fresh enough, charming enough for me to allow it to sneak in to their A Grade. A nice surprise and good to see that they can still make music at this point in their careers that I would gladly hear again.

Last Man Standing: Faster, heavier, and with a different atmosphere that the previous tracks. I would have preferred the verses to have a little more of the oomph of the intro, but by and large the atmosphere and energy is continued. The chorus is a marginal let down for me – as a standalone chorus it is fine, but as a chorus to follow that intro and verse, it doesn’t feel as impactful. Still, this is five decent songs so far that I don’t have anything truly negative to bring up.

Bells Of Freedom: I realise that the album has had, not on the nose patriotism, but a definite sense of the spirit of the USA thanks to the inspirational sounds and themes. I haven’t clicked play on this yet, but I expect this one to be more up front with a name like that. It actually opens with a bell, then acoustics and vocals fade in. The verse is good but the chorus feels an awful lot like This Ain’t A Love Song. It isn’t exactly on the nose, but the lyrics do evoke all of the traditional apple pie USA stuff without explicitly calling them out. With a better chorus this could have squeezed into the upper tier Bon Jovi stuff, but it doesn’t quite get there and is more lower B tier for me and the fact that it is dragged out pushes it more towards average.

Wildflower: A brief intro suggests another softer ballad. Piano and drum led verses are a little different and the chorus doesn’t get much heavier. It adds some dynamics thanks to some strings and guitars and it all fits together coherently. I like the melodies throughout, Jon tries a little too hard to add unnecessary vocal tics, but on the whole it’s another decent song.

Last Cigarette: Five songs to go and I’m not sure they can maintain this momentum. Hopefully they can, but the album runs the risk of becoming too samey. This starts with single chords and vocals, followed up by an edgier drum and vocal piece, and then straight into an upbeat chorus – it all works. The rest of the song follows this format with some additional energy sprinkled on top. The guitars haven’t been at the forefront in this album, with only a couple of basic solos not really worth mentioning so far – there’s one here too. The band goes for a strange childlike choir section after the solo, unusual for them, but they pull it off before closing out with another chorus.

I Am: Instantly with the atmosphere. This is quite funny to me because it sounds very close to a British band you won’t have heard of but which I love, called Haven. Not the vocals, but that intro and some of the melodies are scarily close to a couple of their songs. This is more like the Bon Jovi stuff I enjoy – understated yet powerful at the same time. I’ve no idea how well known or popular this song is but it’s another one I wasn’t aware of which I think goes well with their best hits. The lyrics are once again concerned with the self, with positivity, encouragement.

Complicated: Gets straight down to business. The verse is quite similar to the opening track as well as It’s My Life and the verse feels too by the numbers. The band landed on the word ‘complicated’ and built a simple chorus around it, making sure it rhymed and scanned okay but with little imagination. As a radio rock song it does the job, but it lacks any of the adventure of their hits. When a band has been going for a while, you can tell the songs which didn’t take a lot of care in construction from those which did.

Novocaine: A breathless, wordy verse kicks things off, slowly builds to a decent drawling chorus. Standard drug/love metaphor lyrics. I like how there are very few breaks in the vocals between sections. I like this – not sure how many more times I’d want to hear it though. A strange whispering, talking section closes it out.

Story Of My Life: Closing with a ballad it seems. Piano intro. Are they going to go full piano or – no, there’s the explosion. It’s a booming end, with jubilant melodies and the same care-free energy which has symbolized their career. No complaints about this one, though I think the chorus could have been more emotive. A good end to a good album.

A very consistent album without a single weak link. There isn’t a standout track for me – a couple of quite good ones, a couple of weaker ones that it’s clear not a lot of effort or thought was put into, and the rest are better than average without quite hitting the heights. As I mentioned throughout, the whole thing is designed to be uplifting, comforting, and very easy to get along with – sing and dance easily. As much as I like to make fun of the band – I give them more credit than most – but to be this far into their career and still making worthwhile songs while retaining what made them popular in the first place, gives a warm sense of security. I have many favourite bands who burned out after a couple of albums, so for the big Bon Jovi fans out there it must be wonderful to hear the band still putting out stuff which they should love. I believe this will be the last album I’ve definitely heard tracks off, and while I’m not sure if it was their last big hit, every other album they’ve released since will be almost 100% unfamiliar to me.

Let us know what you think of Have A Nice Day in the comments!

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time: California Dreamin’ – The Mamas And The Papas

California Dreamin‘ is a song that, up until recently, I wouldn’t have considered one of my favourite songs. Not because I never liked it, just because I never much thought about it. Typically when I talk about my favourite songs, they are the ones that have somehow shaped my life or my musical taste or are by one of my all time favourite artists. In this instance none of those statements fit. So why is it featured in this series? Like some song posts to come in the future, it’s simply because the some is so fucking good I can’t ignore it. I’ve been listening to it more and more in the last year and pining for someone to start a new pop movement where the songs are as strong as this. The song has always been there in my life, not because I purposefully put it on or had an album with it but more simply because it was released a good eighteen years before I was born and was so popular that it continued to be played on radio stations and in movies and shows as I was growing up.

That seems like a good place to start – the song was released in 1965 and over the next couple of years became one of the seminal counter-culture hits. It’s one of those songs which makes me yearn for the USA – as many problems as it has always had, sometimes something comes along which makes you want to be a US citizen living and breathing and existing in the same world that the song talks about. It was a hit single in the States and made the Top 40 in The UK, before a re-release in the late 90s saw it finally crack the Top 10. It’s one of those songs which is predominantly 60s but yet endures in each new generation both in its original form and thanks to copious cover versions. While The Mamas And The Papas version is the best, cover versions include Sia, The Beach Boys, America, and Nancy Sinatra have all had a turn yet it was some dodgy German techno thing which garnered the song its first Number 1 placement.

At barely over 150 seconds long, the song is a perfect example of how to do a pop single with no fluff. Perhaps more important, it’s a perfect example of how to do harmonies – in my mind it’s one of the two best examples of this type of harmony ever written, the other being Help! The song even has a lazy pace and a fake-out psychedelic intro in its short running time. That intro strikes me, quite clearly, as the band having no idea how to start the song and getting to the main melody in a smooth way, so instead they just said ‘fuck it’ and cobbled together a few seconds of bizarre psych guitar before blasting straight in. Those melodies? Forget about it. A few seconds in and I’m hooked forever.

Lyrically, it’s the writer yearning for the warmth of California while in a colder part of the country. I’ve never been to California, but the song paints such an idyllic vision of the place that it make it sound like paradise – coupled with the hundreds of movies and shows I watched growing up set in California, hell even the name California has a mythic quality to someone from the dreary, grey, bomb-drenched shores of Ulster. Hearing this song as a kid made me think of long sunny evenings, beaches which stretched as far as they eye could see, and carefree living – feeling which still pervades now even with the cynical mind of a grown-up.

I’ve probably mentioned it countless times on this blog, but the three main elements for me in any song are melody, lyrics, and emotion. This song ticks all three boxes – while I don’t think the band here showcase amazing technical skills or vocals, the lyrics are evocative, the melodies like glue, and it’s all wrapped up in an authentic package. Get those three right, and all of the other important components of music should follow naturally. Get those three right, and even if the other components don’t work, I’ll probably still love your song. Check out my Nightman Scoring System(c) posts for more information on how I break down songs into twenty different components. For now though, click on one of the links throughout this post and enjoy some nostalgic, sun-drenched, melancholic pop.

Let us know in the comments what you think of California Dreamin’ and if there are any other Mamas And Papas songs you think I’d enjoy!

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Nightman Listens To – Bryan Adams – Get Up

Greetings, Glancers! We’re here, we’ve finally made it. At the time of writing this is Bryan’s latest album and so you won’t be hearing my thoughts on him for a while after this post. Thank Jeebus you say… and yet, you keep coming back for more. Now, the album contains thirteen tracks but four of these are acoustic versions of other tracks on the album. That leaves a pretty pathetic nine songs – I’m not going to bother with the acoustic versions, unless someone tells me they are radically different. So, for potentially the last time, lets do this.

You Belong To Me‘: What is this country wank? Aside from the twang guitar riff the rest of the song is okay – it’s incredibly simple and feels exactly like the sort of song which took a shorter time to write than the song actually lasts. It’s brief, the vocals are fairly clean as opposed to his usual gravel style, and the drums, bass, and guitar do exactly what they need to do to complete the song. It’s quite hooky, but quite forgettable.

Go Down Rockin‘: This has a similar vibe to Place Your Hands by Reef. There are no risks here, it’s old fashioned rock, sounds like it could be on a car advert featuring some Coupe zipping along a beachfront. It has a hooky chorus too, the lyrics don’t have anything we need to discuss, and even at under three minutes there’s too much repetition – still, it’s fairly fun.

We Did It All‘: Has some unusual (for Bryan) chord changes and rhythms in the verse, the chorus being more traditional and stronger. I quite like the chorus, tending towards that old school soft rock ballad style. There are some swirling effects which feel disorienting, the piano merges nicely with the rhythm guitar tone, but the lead guitar lines in the chorus feel misjudged and could have taken the song to another level if reworked. It does peter out towards the end.

That’s Rock And Roll‘: This starts out like another relic from the 50s. Then I guess that’s the point once I hear the lyrics. This is way too tame to really be considered rock and roll, even those tracks from the fifty had a fiery energy, burning passion, while this is just a pop song with 50s rock guitars and rhythm. The lyrics get worse as the song goes on, to the point where he’s explaining how to write a simple song… there’s a reason we progressed. Fuck those claps too.

Don’t Even Try‘: Right, so the whole album is going for a fifties vibe. The album so far is just a vanity piece, something which feels like a collection of bonuses that he should have given away for free or kept as an extra disc on an honest new album. All musicians reach that point when they decide to just do a covers album or force the fans to hear the artist’s inspirations reinterpreted. Having said all that, I quite like this one, though it’s about 60 years late to the party.

Do What Ya Gotta Do‘: Honestly, these songs are almost direct rip-offs of songs you already know, it’s quite funny. This one has a bit of The Who in it too, I like the refrain, again it has its hooks, not enough, and it’s incredibly simple. This was the shortest yet, barely scarping past two minutes.

Thunderbolt‘: This one has a bit of experimentation, I guess. The riff and backing is quirky, the drums sound very distorted, but there’s almost nothing to distinguish the chorus and verse making the two or so minutes feel very repetitive and annoying.

Yesterday Was Just A Dream‘: Finally. This one feels like a genuine Adams song and not something he’s nicked from his favourite childhood records. It’s quite sweet, and I like the melodies all the way through. I’d happily listen to this song again, but the rest of the album has left a sour quality which may taint anything good.

Brand New Day‘: We finish with a song that sounds like it could be a single (no idea if it was or not) and another which feels like a genuine Adams song, though it does have the fifties beat. The vocals in the chorus and pre-chorus sound like they have some silly filter on. More unnecessary clapping in the middle.

Well, that was… something. A bad something. Compare anything here with something like Thought I’d Died And Gone To Heaven and…. well, there is no comparison. Fair enough he can do whatever he wants, as any artist should, but you have to ask yourself if anyone else is going to want it. It’s a bit of a crap ending if he doesn’t make another album. I’m sure he had fun making it and the songs aren’t really bad, they’re just retreads of stuff done better sixty years ago.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Get Up!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Joyride!

Greetings, Glancers! In 1990, the pressure was on Roxette to release a follow-up to their multi-million selling second album. Momentum was on their side with that previous album seeing a number of hit singles as well as the re-release of their biggest hit It Must Have Been Love being played around the world thanks to Pretty Woman. The band were at their creative and commercial peak and the new album would prove to be an even bigger success. Like I mentioned in my previous Roxette post, this album was on regular rotation during car trips. For some perspective, we would spend most holidays at a caravan park on a beach near to where my mother grew up and the car journey from my house to our destination was roughly 90 minutes. Sometimes at weekends I would come home for a day with my dad, before returning the following morning. So there was a lot of time listening to songs from this album, along with other favourites of my youth. I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten about here, but overall it’s an album I know well.

Joyride. A great intro to the album with one of their biggest singles. You’d be forgiven in thinking this was the lead in to a concept album what with the artwork and the spoken intro. It ain’t. Roxette have this habit of including multiple great hooks in certain songs – this one has a tonne – the whistling part, the pre-chorus ‘magic friends’, the chorus itself, certain guitar parts – each is addictive and will gnaw away at you. If you like some of the weirder stuff on this site you’ll be please to know I actually did one of my delightful remixes to this song years ago, but I never uploaded it. I must get around to that.

Hotblooded. This comes in heavy, a little cheesy but we can forgive that. Mostly. I’d mostly forgotten the verse but the chorus is another one with fangs. Lots of raunchy lyrics, a fast pace, a harmonica solo, guitar solo, it’s pretty simple but with a decent rock flavour. Good vocals from Marie.

Fading Like A Flower. This was always one of my favourites, but then you know how I love the ballads. This is a power ballad following the 80s template. We have a piano lead in, a lot of atmosphere and emotion, a surge into a crunching chorus. It’s actually heavier than I remember it, more emphasis on the power than the ballad with plenty of guitar to drive things. It also has a greater pace and shorter running time than I remember, but it’s still just as good and gives me nostalgic chills.

Knockin’ On Every Door. This starts with some dated drum sounds before pulling out a very funky verse – lots of riffs and weird sounds along with Per’s fast paced vocals. It’s not very exciting but the chorus is another decent one. Things get weirder in the second verse with stranger vocals and a few interesting musical choices. It could do with a little trimming.

Spending My Time. I feel the same about this one as I do about Fading Like A Flower. It’s another power ballad, but this time the focus is more on ballad than power. It opens with just Marie and an acoustic guitar, very lonesome and atmospheric – especially when the synth and twinkles come in. Then the chorus drops, terrific vocals, nostalgic synth, pure 80s stuff even though this was 1990/1991. Downer lyrics, defiant guitars, massive chorus. It’s perfect power pop.

I Remember You. This opens with some didgeridoo sound before stabilizing. Riffs, decent pace, rock infused pop. The chorus has that annoying Def Leppard feel. The verses aren’t that interesting and the chorus is merely okay, making this the weakest one so far. Still, there is enough here that it is still worth hearing.

Watercolours In The Rain. Another acoustic opening, reminds me a little of Led Zep’s Tangerine. It’s very soft and sweet. This one is unusual in that the chorus doesn’t live up to the verse. It feels like a song that strives for greatness but doesn’t quite reach it.

The Big L. I remember this one feeling heavy. There’s a little bit of guitar there and it’s quick, but it isn’t heavy. We have dual vocals and the melodies are fine throughout. It does have terrible hand claps though, you know I hate those. It’s catchy but it’s one I would have liked much more as a child. This one goes on a bit too long too.

Soul Deep. It’s a rip off of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction but it’s still good. Marie yelps and howls, the drums are solid, and it’s upbeat. Not much else to say.

(Do You Get) Excited? A synth one which feels more in tune with the direction 90s pop was going. The synth also feels like any number of John Carpenter movies. It suddenly bursts into life for the second verse with a loud guitar riff, but the song doesn’t continue in that vein – the verses are still plain. The chorus is good but not as strong as the big ones here.

Church of Your Heart. This one is interesting – it’s another which tries to be a power ballad but just lacks that certain something. I think this one is too upbeat, for some reason I always treat power ballads as ones which come from a place of pain or sadness. This is just happy and though it has the same trademarks as those ballads it doesn’t strike the same chord with me. I still like it, just isn’t essential.

Small Talk. This is a weird song. It’s all drums and synth bass and strange spoken parts and little acoustic jingles. The chorus is okay. It feels very similar to Hotblooded but a less sexy version. A strange mixture, yet it mostly works.

Physical Fascination. Another weird one, or at least a weird intro. Lots of strange 80s sounds and funk stuff. It’s a bit all over the place but I do remember there were a bunch of songs like this – throw in as many instruments and sounds as possible and see if a song pops out the other end. A song usually does, but it’s almost always crap.

Things Will Never Be The Same Again. Ah yes, I always loved this one. I’m sure you can guess why. Somber intro. Sudden big synth and guitars. Atmosphere. Downbeat. You got it, it’s another power ballad. The verse melodies here aren’t as good as others but the pre-chorus and chorus are both great. It’s not as good as I remember, certainly not as good as the biggies, but still one of the better ones here.

Perfect Day. The closing song is another good one. Good verse, good chorus. This one doesn’t rely on silly sounds and production balls – just melody, vocals, idea. The album ends on a strong note.

It didn’t long before my brother started chopping songs from albums to make his own mix tapes fro car journeys, so quite a few of these didn’t make the grade. I also made my mix tapes and the only two songs I remember taking from this album were Fading Like A Flower and Spending My Time. My opinions haven’t really changed – those are the two clear best songs here, with three or four close behind. The rest of the album I can take or leave – there’s really only one crappy one and the rest are average album fare. What about you? Do you have any specific memories of this album or any of its songs? Let us know in the comments!

My Soul To Take

The late, great, Wes Craven ended his career with the final part of his Scream series, and this badly received film which I had avoided for some time. Having now seen it, it is difficult to not agree with the critics who savaged it for being muddled and formulaic – but is it really that bad?

Honestly, no. It’s not good, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is well enough acted and like many of Craven’s middling or lesser films it suffers from wasted opportunities. With any Craven film you go in with certain hopes and expectations, so when those are not met the frustration and disappointment is heightened. A director making this as their first film would still be criticized, but may be encouraged to improve, but Craven as an experienced and successful horror maestro should have known and done better.

The story begins around sixteen years in the past as a deranged conflicted man murders his wife in front of their daughter before being shot by the police. As he is being taken to hospital, he somehow wakes, causes the ambulance to crash, and escapes. We flash forward sixteen years and learn that the killer has become something of a local boogeyman – the local kids meeting on the eve of his disappearance each year to perform a ritual to prevent his return. The main players were all born on this date and are known as the Riverton Seven. I’m not sure how likely it is for seven kids to be born on the same day in a small town, and I’m not sure why the killer, now known as The Ripper decides to hunt them down instead of anyone else, but that’s the gist of the plot. We meet Bug, the quiet outsider of the group who is continuously picked on, his smart ass friend Alex, jock Brandon, ring-leader Fang, as well as a pretty one, a blind one, a religious one, and a creative one. As you would expect, they begin to get picked off.

This raises further questions – Bug is our protagonist and throughout the movie he is accused of and mocked for being in and out of institutions – none of this is explored. Each time someone is killed, he begins to exhibit their traits and mimics their voices and behaviour, making it look as if he is the killer. Again, none of this is really dealt with or explained, or leads anywhere beyond trying to make the audience suspect him. The film throws curve-balls later to point us in the direction of the other survivors until the final muddled minutes. Nothing is ever surprising and the twists mostly miss the mark. You’re likely wondering why you should watch this. As mentioned, most of the cast are good and a few of the faces will be familiar in earlier roles. The kills are gore-lite but effective enough for someone just getting into horror. There are funny moment, both intentional and otherwise, and every so often you’re reminded of Craven’s better works. The idea of a killer possibly leaping from body to body is one that is not often explored in cinema, with Fallen remaining the best example – there is potential here for something better but whether it was a case of too many ideas or a bad script, or nobody knowing what they wanted, the end product doesn’t work. It’s difficult to recommend this now to anyone beyond Craven fans and horror fans in general. There are much better films out there in the genre, films which do better with similar ideas, and much better films by Craven, but as one of the final works by one of the legends of the genre it should nevertheless be required viewing.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of My Soul To Take!

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Eaten Alive

Tobe Hooper sure likes them weirdo, murderin’ yokels. As if he couldn’t get enough of all the dead skin wearin’, chainsaw totin’, blood suckin’ hicks in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre he takes us back into familiar territory with Eaten Alive – the loosely factual based story about an unhinged hotel (?) owner with a swamp instead of a backyard, and a croc instead of a dog. After the success of his breakthrough film it appeared that Hooper was safely giving the audience more of the same – but is it as good as its predecessor?

No is the short answer. There are many reasons why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is held in such high esteem and many horror films are not. That doesn’t mean Eaten Alive isn’t worth watching – for horror fans it’s fairly close to essential viewing given the director’s pedigree, and it stars a varied cast making some interesting choices. The film starts with a lead character fake-out a la Psycho or Scream – a young woman called Clara is a somewhat reluctant prostitute working in a small town brothel. Her reluctance causes her boss to chuck her out, and she is advised to walk to a nearby hotel for the night. Lets back up – the film actually opens with a nice crotch shot as Robert Englund utters the Kill Bill inspiring ‘my name’s Buck and I like to…’ you get the idea. It’s not often that Englund gets to play a ladies man, but here we assume he has the stamina and libido of an adolescent rabbit, casting off Clara before having a threesome, before picking up a girl in a bar. The film takes place over the course of a single night – a few hours – so that Buck fella must hella fuck.

Clara finds her way to the hotel, run by the muttering unhinged Judd (Neville Brand), who recognises her as coming from the brothel. Ol’ Judd isn’t a fan of such things so he grabs his handy scythe and dispatches of Clara, feeding her to his pet crocodile. The remainder of the film is Judd’s night being disturbed by additional visitors – Buck and his girl, the local Sheriff, a bickering husband and wife and their daughter and dog, and Clara’s father and sister hot on her trail. There are quite a few comparisons to be made between this and TCM – there is a similar low grade, dirty look to the cinematography, although at times there are bizarre saturated reds and backlights. Both films feature women in peril, both feature an unhinged man using a farming tool to murderous ends, and both films are incredibly noisy, with screams and shrieks and a buzzing atypical score. The scares here don’t work nearly as well though and there is a more voyeuristic, lurid tone with plenty of boobs on display and a little more blood. The crocodile never feels like a threat and is mostly used as a disposal unit, and Judd pales as a villain in comparison to any of the TCM family.

Where the film at times surpasses TCM is in its performances. There are some truly WTF moments when it comes to the acting and some strange choices which hurt overall, but Hooper is in command of professional actors this time around. TCM’s heroine Marilyn Burns appears here too in a role that largely recalls Sally from that film. It’s the characterisation which lets the film and the performances down – Burns plays a wife and mother who moves between hating and loving her husband and giving him drugs? She is wearing a wig when she first arrives and it’s unclear if she is supposed to be some sort of criminal. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for her then when Judd kills her husband and ties her to a bed for who knows what. Roy, her husband, is played by William Finley who gets the lion’s share of bad moments, wailing and stretching and overacting to the point of underacting. At first he is confident, then he has an inexplicable breakdown, before turning into some attempt at a vengeful hero. Judd all the while stumbles around the hotel, muttering and groaning to himself. Neville Brand has a great voice for Cinema, a deep, low tone which instantly grabs your attention, but it isn’t put to use here – hi mutterings mostly indecipherable. He’s never less than manic, hopping about on one good leg and displaying a range of tics but like his pet you imagine that a good stiff boot in the nuts would put him down easily enough.

The better performances come with Mel Ferrer and Crystin Sinclaire as Clara’s siblings. Ferrer aches with loss and guilt and a touch of manic desperation himself, while Sinclaire is the spitting image of Hilary Swank. Sinclaire doesn’t get a lot to do, but she has a confident presence and allure which makes you wonder why she never became a star. The Sheriff, as played by the ever familiar Stuart Whitman, adds his own brand of tainted understanding. Rounding out things are a young Kyle Richards as the annoying, screeching child who is chased under the house but won’t scream when there’s actually someone there who can help her, and Buck’s pickup Janus Blythe who brings another layer of amusing sleaze – both decent performances. The performance and appearance of the croc is underwhelming – it’s hidden for most of the film, but when it does pop out it doesn’t look the best – think Jaws but cheaper.

I never got around to seeing Eaten Alive until recently – it wasn’t the easiest movie to get a hold of and it never struck me as a must-see. For some reason I always assumed it was a cannibal movie and combined with it being hard to get a hold of I assumed that all meant that it probably wasn’t very good. There is an Italian cannibal movie with the same name, so somewhere along the way I merged the two in my own mind. It’s worth seeing, both as a follow-up to one of the greatest of all time, and as a quirky slice of Southern grime. Just why is there a hotel out there in the middle of nothing? Why does Clara have to struggle through a bushy forest to find her way to it – isn’t there a path? Should we assume Judd has been killing all of his guests? If he remorselessly wipes out several in this single night, then we have to assume he has done it before giving him a probably high kill rate and surely then the authorities would have been knocking on his door years before? In any case, it’s not a film you’re supposed to question – it’s played more to make you uncomfortable rather than outright scare you, and there has always been something about crazed loner hicks which has both entertained and put me on edge. While there isn’t anything a dedicated horror fan won’t have seen here before, it’s exactly the sort of film a dedicated horror fan should still get a kick out of.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Eaten Alive!