Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Look Sharp!

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Greetings, Glancers! Today we’re back to Sweden and glossy pop rock hits. Roxette’s second album was a massive hit around the world thanks to a string of new singles which saw them becoming late 80s superstars. Look Sharp! is an album that I would have been very familiar with in my younger days – I’m sure it would have been played in the car journeys from my house to our summer caravan park many times, though looking at the tracklist there are quite a few I don’t recognize. Some of the ones I do remember I can still sing word for word even though I haven’t heard them in years, and there may be some I have forgotten completely. Hopefully these will bring back memories and feelings of those car journeys – the sun beating in the window as we weaved between the mountains and the sea, school days behind us, and long summer days of football, friends, and fun ahead, romping on the beach, playing in the park, and gobbling sweets by the dozen. It’s exactly what Roxette were going for when they recorded the album.

‘The Look’ is a great way to start the album – maybe the album’s biggest hit and with a famous guitar riff. I’m not sure about the drums – a bit weak, but the lyrics are pure 80s nonsense which is pretty funny. Per sings the lead on the verses with Marie taking secondary duties once the chorus. Infectious melodies all the way through, from the whispering verses, the call and repeat chorus, and the ‘na na na na’ bits.

‘Dressed For Success’ is just fun all around. It grabs you from the first moment with Marie’s ‘yeah yeah yeah’, accompanied by cheery verses and a massive chorus. The best part is the bridge, because what is a great pop song without a connection between verse and chorus? This one is very good, with all the ‘what you gonna tell your mumma’ and ‘uh oh oh’ stuff and bouncy melodies. This one will put a smile on your face.

‘Sleeping Single’ is one I didn’t remember from the name alone. It starts with thumb clicks and tinkling stuff, before the 80s drums and horn stuff comes along and makes me think of Police Academy. The verses have only the slightest remembrances for me, but I do remember the chorus. It’s fine – I can’t say anything bad about it because it again sounds so fun and cheesy – it probably doesn’t need to be so long though.

‘Paint’ is another I don’t remember. It starts out pretty disastrously, with bad drums and 80s sounds. You can always rely on Roxette to pull it back with good melodies. I don’t remember the verse at all and the chorus makes me think of Madonna, so I can’t say I have any memory of this at all. It’s fine, chorus is okay, when Marie blasts it out halfway through it’s pretty good, but it’s the weakest song so far.

‘Dance Away’ actually start out like something by The Music, for about eight seconds. Then it goes all Eurythmics. Good vocals by Marie but everything else feels like a weaker version of The Look. Even the chorus isn’t that great, a couple of good moments.

‘Cry’ starts out softly, with piano and smooth sounds, leading into plain verses. I assumed I would remember this but I don’t aside from the ‘why should I cry’ line. There’s honestly not a lot to this song, even the melodies don’t hit the spot. I know it’s meant to be a lot more, but it’s a bit of a none event.

Chances‘ raises the energy levels again with heavy use of snyth and beats to create a throbbing rhythm. Better verse melodies and a much better chorus than the last few songs. It’s still not great, but has an atmosphere, a nifty guitar solo, and is catchy like their better songs.

Dangerous‘ opens with some chugging guitars and weird noises. Obviously I remember this, but I must have blocked out the weirdness from my memories. The verses are a little vague in my memory, but I remember the chorus clearly. It’s cute and infectious, strange when you consider the lyrics and subject matter. Like all of Roxette’s finest songs, this is all about the melody.

‘Half A Woman, Half A Shadow’ is one that doesn’t sound familiar at all. Opening vocals – nope, guitar and drums – nope, doesn’t ring a bell. Verse…. I don’t think I remember this but there is something… could be just because it sounds like something else. It feels a little bit like Lonely Nights by Bryan Adams. The chorus isn’t too hot. Disaster end.

‘View From A Hill’ is pure 80s dirt. This could be from Beverly Hills Cop or anything. I kind of remember the chorus, nothing else though. This is another middling effort, easily forgotten and aside from a couple of hooks there isn’t anything here to recommend. Lots of weird moments where the other musicians appear to lose their minds.

‘I Could Never Give You Up’ is a bonus song, but it sounds familiar. Again, I could be confusing it with something else. It’s better than the last couple, good Spanish guitar in the middle, better melodies.

‘Shadow Of A Doubt’ starts like an 80s action movie soundtrack. I love the verse vocals – they sound more urgent than most of the other songs. The melodies are fine, not too much difference between the verse and chorus. We get some sort of sax solo in lieu of a six string. I like the belting out by Marie at the end.

‘Listen To Your Heart’ closes the album – easily my favourite song here. This is one of the few Roxette songs that I’ve listened to sporadically over the years – it’s good enough that it’s never too far away. Atmospheric piano opening like the best power ballads. Steamy verses with superb melodies before the booming, immortal chorus. That’s it really, aside from saying I like the little twiddly synth ending.

I’m surprised I didn’t remember more of this album. My brother was a fan of making his mix tapes, so maybe he only took his favourites from Look Sharp! and the others got lost by the wayside. It’s worth listening to the whole thing, but it’s probably best to just cut out your favourites for future reference. Next time I listen to Roxette it will be an album I know I’m more familiar with – JoyRide. Let us know in the comments what your memories and thoughts of Look Sharp! are and share the music that you used to listen to on long car journeys of yore.

My Favourite 48 Natalie Imbruglia songs

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For my money, Natalie Imbruglia is the best female pop artist since the mid nineties. As Glancers will know by now, for me emotion and honesty are more important than originality or fitting in with the current musical scene. Imbruglia fits these personal criteria as well as having a superb, appealing, harmonious voice and being an all round great human and bad-ass. I was a fan from day one. Scratch that, I was a fan from her Neighbours days, long before she hit the charts with her multi-million selling debut. Most people know her for the smash hit Torn and… that’s about it. As great as that song is, it only hints at her talent – the real deal would come out in White Lilies Island her second record which I have called (and continue to call) one of the best albums of all time. It genuinely is – do yourself a favour and get it now – melancholy, brutal, euphoric pop at its finest. A bunch of complete morons gave it, seriously, gave it bad reviews. Jesus wept.

Since then her general popularity has waned, no doubt due in part to a less than frequent series of releases. Five albums (including one entirely of covers) in twenty years isn’t great, but the general quality of those more than makes up for those missing years. Sort of. She has also recorded a large number of B-Sides and rarities, the best of which would make at least one more superb album. From the indie Brit-pop rock of Left Of The Middle, the majesty of White Lilies Island, the mature pop of Counting Down The Days, and even the much maligned Come To Life and covers album Male, Imbruglia has carver her own path and deserves a hell of a lot more exposure and critical acclaim than she has received thus far. I’m giving links to Youtube for each song, where there is a single I’ll give the official video link and the album track as there are usually differences. Here is a rough list of my favourite Imbruglia songs. Listen and love!

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48. Only Love Can Break Your Heart

We kick off our list with a cover from Male. This droopy-bass heavy is a slow effort with not a lot of exterior instrumentation which suits the downbeat grunge feeling of Neil Young’s original. I will say this – Male is not an album I am super familiar with yet and while a number of songs immediately leaped out at me others did not have the same impact. Songs like this one which I enjoy now may drop out of the list if I was to write it in a year’s time and likewise others which have not been included here could appear. Today is today though, and this is how I feel. I also feel warm, because I’m writing this on a train filled with sweaty types.

47. Goodbye In His Eyes

If you’re a regular glancer on my blog you’ll probably know I’m not much of a country fan. Country music is an inherent US product, yet also oddly a Northern Irish one. Country music is everywhere in my home crust Earth and I’m biased in that I associate the whole stinking genre with either idiots, scumbags, people who don’t really care about music, or people who refuse to listen to any other type of music. Massive stereotyping ahoy! I do like this as it doesn’t contain the usual whining guitar or vocals which is prevalent in the genre. I haven’t heard the original at the time of writing, but I’ll get to it.

46. Identify

Natalie Imbruglia. Patricia Arquette. Billy Corgan. Blood. This cut from the movie Stigmata is one I liked a lot more around the time that movie came out. I think it’s a movie and a song I thought I liked more than I actually ever did – both are things I wanted to like more but they’re just okay. The song is better than the film; it’s smokey and mysterious and dreamy, almost like a lost Portishead song. It’s a song that doesn’t really sound like anything else Imbruglia has ever done, aside from one song which will appear later on my list. The various contributors to the song are each masters at their craft and ensure it is a ghostly partner to the film it fits. I do love the line ‘am I lonely or am I just alive?’

45. My God

The opening song to Come To Life – Imbruglia’s first album in x years had a lot to live up to for me. It sort of sets the tone of the album in that there isn’t really a tone. Come To Life’s main problem is that it feels like a collection of leftovers or experiments – main problem is that it feels like a collection of leftovers or experiments – My God a pulsating, thronging pop punk thing with strange noises and spirited vocals. It works, but it doesn’t work as well as it could and doesn’t compare favourably with her opening tracks. Still, I include it here because it is an interesting effort.

44. Lukas

The second track from Come To Life goes off in a tonally and totally different direction from the first – this one clearly a Coldplay song with their usual mixture of simpering mistakes and pseudo-Radiohead bating. Imbruglia adds a smooth layer of quality, slicing out any pretension and leaving a light, jolly song which is better than I thought it would be.

43. Stuck On The Moon

The first of the new tracks recorded for Imbruglia’s greatest hits album Glorious to appear on my list, Stuck On The Moon has lovely, poetic flourishes in the lyrics and a fine juxtaposition between the cascading piano and clattering drums. It would have been sad to end her musical career at this point as this song proves she was as capable of crafting a simple yet catchy pop song as anyone.

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42. Wishing I Was There

I’ll let you in on a secret; I’m not a huge fan of Imbruglia’s first album. I like it, obviously, but it doesn’t compare with her second and third, and as such there won’t be many songs from it on my list. This is probably the best example of her twisting the indie sound of the era to her own means. It’s a little bit Morrissette, and a little bit Brit-Pop, but fluid, fun, and the chorus –like many on the album, is designed to be ear sherbet. When you get to the end of the list you’ll see which songs from her debut were left off in favour of this one – I simply find this one more fun.

41. City

As above, this one merges independent the rawk girl sound which emerged in the 90s with Imbruglia’s own captivating presence and uniquely sweet vocals. This song feels a little more progressive or different from the more obvious hits on her debut, it still has its heavy indie moments but is infused with jazz and mystery and the sombre undertones which would characterize her next album.

40. Just Another Day

Out of all her B-Sides ad rarities, this one feels most Brit-pop, going as far as reminding me of Robbie Williams back when he was starting his solo career by stealing from Oasis. This was actually a B-Side to That Day so that particular era was long turned over to dust by the time it was released. I’m convinced this was written earlier though and that sound was retained, even if a few touches of instrumental colour were added near the end of the song to expand its sound. All that being said, it’s a bowl full of sunshine, whatever that means.

39. My Own Movie

What I loved about discovering all of the B-Sides and rarities is the variety. Yes, they all still fall into the rock/pop/girl and guitars category, but the songwriting and general styles vary and there seems to be more freedom or less restrictions on what the song needs to be. This one seems to start like a downbeat ballad before the booming chorus floats those notions away. I love the chorus harmonies/filler vocal bits, the jangling guitars, and the strangeness which is allowed to lurk in the melody.

38. Sanctuary

This is arguably the happiest, most obviously joyful song Imbruglia has recorded and I defy anyone who listens to it to not smile throughout. Lyrically, I’m not really sure what’s going on – suggestions of stress and speed and crap with Imbruglia offering herself as an anchor in the storm. The verses are fine, but the chorus is pure grinning heroine. Harmonies, guitars, strings, melodies, happiness!

37. Pigeons And Crumbs

The first expansive song on her debut and another which hints that she was already demanding to break out of the overall sound of that album. The verse vocals are sung in little girl lost style which somehow doesn’t annoy, rather it incredibly adds to the song. Imbruglia may be the only singer who sings in a prominent accent which never irritates me. This is still a simple verse, chorus, verse album track, but it evokes a more epic scope thanks to some angelic production and layering.

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36. I Will Follow You Into The Dark

I’ll admit again here and now to not having heard the original, knowingly at least. I checked and saw it was by Death Cab For Cutie – a band I don’t know much about but remember laughing at their name when I first heard it. I still don’t know much about them but I admit I lumped them in with a bunch of other pop rock for children American acts which have been charting in recent years. The strength of this cover makes me want to listen to the original and see if the band has any good stuff. I imagine anyone who can write the line ‘Lover mine, some day you will die, I’ll be close behind, I’ll Follow You Into The Dark’ must be a decent writer because, God, that line really gets me every time. Imbruglia’s delivery along with the music and melody seal the deal, and I’ll admit to being tearful when I first listened.

35. Left Of The Middle

The title track closes the debut, the softest, quietest song on the album but one rich with feeling as Imbruglia yearns for the lover she is yet to find. It’s a great vocal performance, gentle in the verses, stretching to breaking point with each renewed chorus. It’s a very simple song but she again proves you don’t need to have complex structures to get a wealth of emotion and quality across.

34. Apologise

A song recorded for Come To Life and written with the singer from British band Ben’s Brother. That band decided to release their version first so Natalie kept her one as a rarity. Again, I haven’t heard Ben’s Brother’s version but this one is great – love the build up to the chorus and the chorus has a fantastic hook. Come To Life is a short album and there’s definitely room for this one to be included. Again the vocals find and highlight the emotion of the lyrics beautifully and the closing chorus where she half-shouts, half-sings is glorious.

33. Only You

This one opens with some dark, ambient, warbling electronic sound – like ears filling with water. The vocals come in cleanly and plainly, work through a double pre-chours thing before giving way to gentle guitars and a lovely chorus. The song basically repeats everything above but with greater power in those repetitions. It’s all lovely.

32. Fun

You probably know, or can guess I’m not a Coldpay fan, mainly because they’re shite. I didn’t mind their first album but everything since has been pale and bland and painful attempts at cloning Bends-era Radiohead. Normally I wouldn’t mind such things, but it’s so blatant and so clearly missing the point that it’s laughable. But people like them, so fine. Credit where it’s due though, this is a fine song but you can instantly tell it’s Coldplay thanks to that piano and beat and rhythm which appear in several of their biggest singles. Imbruglia does her best to make it her own and I much prefer her vocals to how I imagine Chris Martin would yawn his way through it.

31. Goodbye

Much of White Lilies Island is sombre and soaked in melancholy, though generally the music covers the angst of the lyrics. Not so with Goodbye – lyrically and musically it is inward looking and despair fuelled, the despair of love voided. We’ve all been there, whether concerning love or loss, the well-meaning comments which suffocate and further distance us, the anger crushed by sadness, and the utter confusion. The lyrics are mumbled semi-coherant thoughts, the verses droned into the bottom of a glass, and the chorus the shattering of said glass against a wall.

30. Perfectly

‘When I say it doesn’t matter, it matters most of all’. We’ve all seen those silly women cliché posts on social media or in decorative shops – ‘Things a woman says and what she really means’. That opening line always reminds me of such things, but not in a negative way. You can guess then that we have more contradictions in the lyrics, but musically this features the summery guitar driven pop which is a central feature of Counting Down The Days. The melodies and chorus don’t grab or reach as much as others on the list, but the overall warmth of the song ensures you come back for more.

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29. That Girl

That Girl always reminds me of a Motown track, the jangled guitars, the beat, the horns in the introduction – it all has the vibe of a Supremes song. The lyrics seem to speak of the multiple personalities we adopt to cope with the many facets of life forced upon us or which we have to cope with – one face for romance, a face for fans, one for friends, family, the smiles and acts which we hone over time for a variety of reasons until one day we see ourselves performing these perversions but fail to recognise the actions as our own. It’s a classy song with lovely harmonies and a great chorus to boot.

28. Always Never

Speaking of contradictions, this one is driven by such thoughts – the clue is in the title. This one is a perfect mixture of evocative vocal performance and verse to chorus melodic wonder. The lyrics are very nice too, once again speaking of the inner and outer self and an inability to cope with that balance until misery becomes the preferable solution.

27. All The Magic

Sounding like a cut from Counting Down The Days, All The Magic is as pure and easy as you could wish for – acoustic guitars and Natalie’s voice dancing through the verses. The pre-chours comes in suddenly, and then the chorus soars into the sky taking the corners of your mouth with it. Yeah, you’re going to smile at this one as it forces you to remember your first love – those excited feelings about getting ready to meet, about catching one another smiling across a room, about allowing your defenses to come down and your feelings to be shared.

26. Be With You

This is how you do piano drive pop – a very simple descending piano line leading in to soft electronic beats and a basic, short verse. It all serves the chorus, it all sounds like typical happy pop stuff except she’s saying ‘I don’t want to live if I don’t want to be with you’. This reminds me of some of the Lifeblood era Manic Street Preachers stuff, at least in terms of production and melody. Regardless, it’s another one which never fails to make me smile. And hop about.

25. All The Roses

The last great song from Come To Life is this brooding, bleeding ballad. It’s slow, led by unusual electronic hums and beeps and punctuated by alarm bell piano. With most of the music stripped back you get a clear shot of the vocals – strong throughout with the best moments coming in the bridge before the final chorus. I like how the song unearths a subtle beat in the final moments which threatens to build and turn into some dance track – instead a little violin takes over and the song comes to an abrupt end.

24. Do You Love

We stay in darker territory, which means we must be back on White Lilies Island. This is a mixture of low register guitars, soul-churning strings, and mournful vocals. The pre-chorus goes grunge, the chorus goes stadium rock, and the song instantly lands in my favourite’s list. The volume and backing sound continues to grow, all the way to the massive final chorus. You should know by now that this album is essential and almost everything on it is fantastic – this song should reach out to a multitude of fans of different genres – like all good music it doesn’t matter what your preference is, you just hear and appreciate.

23. Counting Down The Days (official video)

A sad song about distance, a happy song about looking forward to being together again. This one kind of lost out a little when the single trimmed parts of an already short song – stick to the album version. It starts out as a tear-jerker with John Lennon’s Imagine piano and Imbruglia’s vocals bemoaning the fact that she is apart from the ones she loves, but holy crap the pre-chorus with it’s tiny guitar piece, and the chorus itself are exquisite. Moving back into the verse feels like a come down meaning the song plays a little with your emotions and expectations – none of which I have a problem with. Then the Christmas/Wedding bells come in at the end to confuse me even more. Still time for one last Hawaiian guitar bit and another chorus!

22. Against The Wall

My favourite new song from her Glorious Greatest Hits album is one which wastes no time – thronging guitar chords and more summery melodies. Imbruglia is a master of that segue-way from verse and chorus as I have written about already and this is another prime example. It can fall apart if you don’t have a pay-off in the chorus, luckily here all three pieces are flawless. You already know I love the bridge too.

21. Friday I’m In Love

What can you do to a beloved The Cure classic to make it your own? Why this of course. Whatever the hell this is, that’s precisely what you do. It’s a little bit country, a little bit weird, and a hundred percent marvellous. As mentioned earlier, some of the songs from Male may go up and down drastically in my preferences as I’m not as familiar with them as everything else but I don’t see me ever not liking this. The first time I listened to this I almost literally laughed my balls off. I mean I laughed, yes, but then a few minutes later as I was driving some old fucker pulled out in front of me leaving me with no choice but to pound the breaks futilely and smash into him. My balls remained in check, and in sack, but my car was a write off. True story. Do I like this more than the original? That’s hard to say – they almost feel like different songs. In the end, both give me the same feeling of euphoria, and that’s all that matters. It’s an achievement because it includes two things I hate – Country music and hand claps – yet it’s inexplicably wonderful. SATURDAYYYY – WAIT!

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20. Talk In Tongues

We need to calm down after that last one – back to White Lilies Island for another downbeat, heads-down-walk-in-perpetual-rain-uphill-to-nowhere song. This opens a little like Lucky by Radiohead – similar guitars for a few seconds anyway. There are bizarre little moments throughout, little digitized ticks and strange jangles, and explosive vocals blast in the bridge where the song changes almost entirely, only to be pulled back down by the old-black-and-white-movie strings to the somber chorus once more.

19. Shiver (Official video)

Pop perfection. Imbruglia announced her return with this first single from her third album, a song which ended up being the most played on British radio in 2005 apparently. I don’t recall it being played at all. I assume then you’ve heard it, but if not get listening now. There’s the usual sense of melancholy, but it’s more underplayed here thanks to the warmth of the melody.

18. Instant Crush (official video)

Covers are funny things. I had not heard the original by Daft Punk, and I’ve never been a huge Daft Punk fan anyway. After hearing people raving about the original I went back to it and found it too twee. Imbruglia’s version feels much more emotional to me, or at least it speaks to me much more. That’s the funny thing about cover versions – we usually like whatever version of a song we hear first. Thanks for writing the original guys, but Natalie beefs it up into a soul-searching, heart-rending ballad and blows your one away.

17. Torn (official video)

If you were around in the 90s you heard this song. You saw the video. Presumably you fell in love with the song and the singer. It’s perfect, but I’ve heard it so many times and it’s such a part of the public consciousness that it doesn’t top my list. Technically a cover, it’s Imbruglia’s entirely – can you think of any other version which comes close to this? If I’m picky I prefer a live version without those silly digitized drums. My favourite parts? The way she changes the vocal slightly for one of the final ‘I’m cold’ lines and the way she sings the first ‘That’s what’s going on’. I don’t know why.

16. I Won’t Be Lost

Lovely lovely lovely. One of my favourite vocals from her, mainly because the lyrics have so many vowel sounds and soft sounds – row, vertigo, unaware, billionaire – and the way her accent tackles them is gorgeous. Then there is the pleading, breathy delivery. Then there’s the superb ‘Don’t you give up on me’ section. I will understand fully if people see this as boring, but for me it’s among her best ballads, beautiful, sweet, defiant.

15. Twenty

When this kicked off Come To Life on my first listen, my first thought was ‘Holy Heavens, she’s done it again’. The album as a whole doesn’t live up to this first track, but it’s a brilliant opener and should have been a single. There’s enough of a beat to dance to it or blast from your stereo, it has the mixture of love, hope, and sadness that she conveys so well, it has glorious backing strings, and a chorus which deserves to be performed live by thousands of adoring fans.

14. Hide Behind The Sun

We’re now at that point in the list where the songs are all so good and I love them so much that there isn’t much difference between them. This B-Side to Wrong Impression could easily have made it on to White Lilies Island – it certainly fits the general anguish and strength coursing through that album. This is absolutely gorgeous, note-perfect piano, flawless vocals, I love how the strings and guitars drift in and fade away, I love the weird wind instrument piece in the middle – everything is so underplayed as if she just walked into the studio one day and announced she’d written a new song and the band added their own pieces in a single take.

13. Scars

My favourite song from Come To Life is a ballad and was planned as the second single. I’m not sure how well it would have performed, yet in our current climate of bland Adele love pap, this one deserved to soar to the top of the charts. The lyrics have a wealth of honesty, you can feel each word like a slash at the wrist, the performance an undressing of bandages and a presentation of the scars. It’s simple, brutal, wonderful. There is a more up-tempo, earlier version out there but I’ve only heard live versions of it – I prefer the album take.

12. Smoke (official video)

My favourite song from Left Of The Middle, and the first sign that Imbruglia was much more than a pretty face and a decent singer. Smoke is entirely apart from everything else on that album – unnerving, majestic, cryptic, mesmeric. It’s also a greater vocal performance than anything else on her debut, but for me it’s all about the mystery and fear which is conjured. When the strings come in and the volume increasing around the ‘you’re pushing me’ line – my gawd. For the longest time I assumed she would not top this, but then White Lilies Island came out and.. well, you’ll see.

11. Starting Today

The opening track of Counting Down The Days just missed out on my top ten. That’s meaningless though because this is another nigh-on perfect song. A song of realization, opening your eyes to your self, your worth, and what is on front of you, a song of moving on, on leaving behind but not looking over your shoulder, looking ahead, head held high. Each time I hear this I forget how slow it is – something about it makes it seems faster than it actually is. Favourite part here? ‘Eve-RE-day, ev-RE-day, ev-RE-day-ee!’

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10. Come On Home

Top ten now, and we start hitting songs that have some weird single moments that I love – putting them in my personal pantheon of best single moments in music. For Come On Home that moment occurs late in the song when Imbruglia suddenly wails on one of the last ‘Come on homes’. It’s completely unexpected and brilliant, for me at least. I don’t see anyone else getting as much joy out of that moment as me, but it helps to push the song high on my list. The rest of the song is great, that goes without saying, mid-rock, plenty of pounding pianos and chugging guitars.

9. Satellite (live acoustic)

Remember I mentioned earlier about happiest songs? Well, this may be one of the happiest songs by anyone, ever. None of that Pharell balls. If you don’t find yourself repeating the ‘do-di-do’s then you need to be put down, stat. Every single note here is joyous, heavenly. You can feel the smiles in her vocals. There’s a cyclical nature to this song and several others on White Lilies Island – you know, songs that start out a certain way and end the exact same way? I don’t just mean verse chorus verse, I’m talking a complete mirror – intro, verse, chorus, verse, outro. Enough of that nonsense, this is just fun beyond words.

8. Wrong Impression (official video)

Another hit single now, albeit one which starts out with a hilarious fake classical intro. Man, I love the pronunciation on some of the ‘I want you’ lyrics. This is another sublimely sunny song, especially given the general dark tones of the album. What else do I love? The key change at the end, standard pop fare I know, but it works even better here. Also, the dragged out ‘didn’t want to leeeeeavve you there’.

7. What’s The Good In Goodbye

It’s another example of those times when the B-Side is as good as, if not better than the single. This is better than Counting Down The Days – both terrific songs, but this one is special. Sure on the surface it’s another soulful ballad about lost love, but it’s so damn genuine and drenched in truth and feeling that it’s painfully universal. Every melody is perfect, the simplicity doesn’t require a single extra note or instrument, she does that cool vowel thing that I love when she sings ‘no’, ‘go’, ‘know’, and ‘hello’ and the chorus with its central lyric will rummage its way around your brain for days after a single listen.

6. When You’re Sleeping

Another track which begins with extravagant strings, which you should know by now I’m a sucker for, and then leads into what seems to be a depressed verse until you realise the the lyrics are actually positive and touching. Another brilliant vocal, just acoustic guitar, Natalie, and the strings, an entirely charming song to melt the stoniest soul.

5. Shikaiya

It’s only in relatively recent years that I tracked down Natalie Imbruglia’s b-sides and rarities. I knew Identify and Glorious from their respective releases, but I never bought any of her singles even though I bought each album around the time of release. I can’t remember what b-side I heard first, but the moment I heard this one I knew that she was one of a select few artists capable of recording varying material which could be just as strong as her album tracks and singles. I’m not talking just a handful of flukes, but at least an album’s worth of rarities which would be just as good as any of her official releases. Shikaiya is one of the finest B-Sides (here it’s the B-Side for That Day) I’ve ever heard, an unashamedly beautiful ode, a song of new life, new love, of dedication, one to play surrounded by blue skies, white sand, and blistering sunlight.

4. Everything Goes

White Lilies Island again, and another one of those cyclical, perfectly symmetrical songs. By this point in the album you already know it’s an all time classic, songs like this popping up everywhere. By this point in the list I don’t need to explain how I feel about these songs or how good they are – perfect verses, perfect pre-chorus and chorus, guitars, strings, vocals, everything. I love how chaotic the chorus gets and then how the verse sucks everything back in and calms the mood, I love how she switches up which part of the chorus comes first each time around, and I love how it ends as it began.

3. That Day (Official video)

I still remember the first time I heard That Day – the first single from White Lilies Island. I caught the video and was immediately smitten – it was very different from her previous stuff and had a more mature and dense sound – the 90s were long gone and this was Imbruglia’s personal blend of pop and rock, still replete with everything that made her special. The video is pretty great too, simple but a sign of the defiance and spark of the album – everyone and everything pushing against her but she is walking on regardless – a simple motif, but it works. The album version is of course superior but the single gets the jist across – great riffs and melodies, but my highlights are simply how many words there are in the song meaning the vocals become a frantic rushing of thoughts. My second highlight is the way the line ‘I lay down beside myself’ is changed every single time – a different inflection, or word selected to pronounce more heavily or emphasize, or give it slight melodic twist. What the hell – my third highlight – which shouldn’t really count, are the bizarre overdubbed harmonies on ‘it’s supposed like this’. They sound like mistakes which were accidentally left in, but again they somehow work.

2. Come September

White Lilies Island comes to a close with this downpouring of loveliness. The opening drums suggest it will be a heavier affair but then the swooning guitars and vocals join in and we know this is more of a mini epic ballad. Her vocals are never more angelic than here, the way she pronounces the word ‘die’ is maybe my favourite moment in any of her songs and yet the rest of the song is filled with similar little moments. It all feels so effortless, from the subtle introduction of the strings to the chinking piano loops, to the celebratory key change leading into the final verse. The lyrics are wonderful too, my only issue though is that I hate September and can’t bring myself to agree that everything wrong’s gonna be alright come September.

  1. Hurricane

My number one song has basically been my number one since I heard it, and yes we’re staying on White Lilies Island for it. If you trust anything I’ve said in any of my music posts (and I’ll admit my tastes are pretty weird) then go and buy that album now. Hurricane starts off with a slow guitar arpeggio or note progression played through a filter which makes it sounds like it’s from some old timey 1910 era sepia movie. There are some sort of seaside noises too, or at least that’s the sense I get while listening. Then the vocals start, creeping through the verse’s undergrowth, lyrics about shock and confusion, before the song emerges into the clarity of the chorus with perfect string section building and guitar change. The second verse is more of the same with the addition of bass and off kilter percussion and then, as we have come to expect with this album, the two part chorus is again switched around so that the second part comes first. Everything peaks and we drift off into the sunset. It’s simple, symmetrical, and if it isn’t one of the best songs of all time then I think I’m finally done with the human race.

Phew. I think Natalie Imbruglia as an artist is someone who can appeal to any music lover and if you have dismissed her as pop pap or sub-Morrissette/Brit Pop stuff I would urge you to give her another try. Hit a few of the links above and let me know. If you have any special thoughts or memories of any Natalie Imbruglia song or if you want to share you favourites then drop them in the comments below!

Nightman Listens To Bon Jovi – Destination Anywhere!

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Greetings, Glancers! We continue our mini-detour from Bon Jovi’s main releases to see what their front man was getting up to in his spare time. Last time around we listened to Jon strap on his boots and go bareback through the South, living out his Wild West fantasies. With 1997’s Destination Anywhere, the musical landscape had changed and the main band had matured. Will his second solo effort also highlight these changes or will it be a self-serving piece of masturbation? I definitely know (and like) a couple of these songs already, and hopefully there are some new ones which I’ll get into.

‘Queen Of New Orleans’ – Good intro, a clearly late 90s rock sound. Oddly deep vocals. Verse is plain, the chorus is too tame and the vocals don’t work. Mostly boring but a different pace and approach from what we know, it does veer way too close to a lot of those soft rock bands of the era who each had one hit then disappeared.

‘Janie, Don’t You Take Your Love To Town’ – This is one I’ve always liked. It feels like a Bon Jovi song, but it has that mid-late 90s drum sound. Unlike the first track, this one has good verses and a crowd-pleasing chorus. It may be formulaic, but we don’t come into an album like this expecting it to break ground. I’d never actually heard the full version of this before – the single works just as well.

‘Midnight In Chelsea’ – There’s that beat again, except this time it sounds like some RnB fluff. I’m not sure what audience Jon was going after with these songs – it would alienate his core crowd and the people who listen to generic chart fluff aren’t going to be interested in hearing some old white guy do it. Still, this is better than the first song, lyrics seem okay, and the chorus has potential. It doesn’t quite paint the picture of America that he wants it to, but it’s fine – the chorus is a grower, but it goes on for a minute too long.

‘Ugly’ – Hmm, that riff seems familiar. Maybe I have heard this one before. Yeah, it’s one of those songs. We’re all ugly sometimes, except some of us are more often than others. And we’re all in different environments which mean different outcomes to feeling or being u-g-l-y. Still, it’s fine, average or slightly better.

‘Staring At Your Window With A Suitcase In My Hand’ – Experimental country. I like the verses. They are nothing new, we’ve heard this stuff by Bon Jovi and other bands before. As you know by know, I’m a sucker for those atmospheric, shadowy songs – this doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s close. Again it’s just okay – nothing bad, nothing really good, just ordinary.

‘Every Word Was A Piece Of My Heart’ – Odd vocals. Gruff but low. Ordinary verse, decent bridge and chorus, but lacking those extra pieces to push it over into the good song territory. These songs are simply too samey and forgettable at the moment. Weird middle vocals and solo.

‘It’s Just Me’ – Madonna drums. More weird vocals. Ordinary verses, reflective lyrics, decent bridge, average chorus. You know the drill by now, and unless the album picks up in the second half it’s going to be a very forgettable experience. Hmm, this one just keeps going doesn’t it? Solo flapping to end.

‘Destination Anywhere’ – A more respectable one all around this is. It has the same weird not quite country sound as other songs on the album. The verses are fine but luckily the chorus does the trick, even if it does come from nowhere and doesn’t connect well with any other part of the song.

‘Learning How To Fall’ – More drum loops. This all seems ill-advised. More low. Some harmonica. Plain verse. Brief bridge. Plain chorus. Next.

‘Naked’ – Funky. This one at least is different. I imagine this is more like the sound he wanted to go with for the album, but it still feels like a lot of those other one-hit wonders of the era. ‘You can’t fake it when you’re naked?’ I don’t know about that…

‘Little City’ – More drum bits and bobs. Better guitar. Better vocals. It has the atmosphere and the shadows. Verses are okay, if it can pull off a good chorus then this could be a hidden gem. Eventually we reach a ‘sha la la la’ piece. It almost makes it but stays tantalizingly out of reach of true goodness. Ah well. Then it tacks on a minute of crap to the end.

‘August 7 4.15’ – Hmm, this seems more like it. Faster tempo, Springsteen vocals, catchy bits. Verses and bridges better than the chorus. Still, that’s two better songs near the end, but still not enough to save this from being a sleepy time record for sleepy sleep sleeps.

‘Cold Hard Heart’ – Closing with a ballad then. Or, something slower at least as this seems too downbeat to be a ballad. This is actually much better than almost anything else on the album, that is obvious from the opening minute. Good verses and great chorus. Three good songs to close – add a couple of the singles and you would have a pretty good EP.

That’s that then. An unfulfilling bore in all honesty. Points for trying to be different, but points removed for not fully committing to it and making something interesting. There are maybe only 4-5 decent songs here, the rest are filler and belong as B-Sides or on the studio floor. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments! Next up, the boys reunite and unleash Crush!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Pearls Of Passion!

Greetings, Glancers. As you’re probably aware if you frequent this place, I have been revisiting the sounds of my childhood and filling in the gaps of those artists I used to listen to, but who have since made albums which I haven’t heard. The main artists in this series are Bryan Adams, Madonna, and Bon Jovi – massive artists whose songs have been a part of my life, but whose many albums I may not have heard all the way through. As I near the end of this journey, I realised there was one more band who I used to listen to al lot in my youth – mainly because they were my older brother’s main choice for long car journeys. If you already read the title of this post, you’ll know that band is Roxette. If you didn’t read the title, then surprise – that band is Roxette!

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As I say, they were my brother’s choice so there was a fair bit of ribbing and mocking going on between us. In truth of course, I’ve always had a thing for high emotion and power ballads and Roxette have more than a few of these in their discography. Looking down their studio albums, there are at least four albums I have zero knowledge of and one which I have maybe heard one song from. I am more familiar with their earlier albums as those are the ones my brother had, but I can’t say I’ve listened to any of them since around 1995. Of those 5 albums, maybe 1 or 2 of them I have not heard all the way through. In other words, these posts will be filled with memories, some good songs, some naff songs, and hopefully a few hidden gems. Lets start from the top with their 1986 debut Pearls Of Passion.

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Looking down the track list of the album, there are maybe only two song titles I recognise, but I’m sure I’ll remember a few others. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!

Soul Deep: Drums, I Am The Resurrection. Trumpets. Woo oooh yeah. High, powerful vocals. I remember pieces of this. The chorus is kind of catchy, it’s a light, fun pop song but nothing memorable.

Secrets That She Keeps: Fading in, whirling vocals. 80s drums and twinkling. Wah oh waohwaohah. Catchy verses. Per chorus. Typical 80s pop, bound to fill anyone of a certain age with nostalgia, even if you haven’t heard this. I remember this one too. Key change. Guitar solo. All showing their ability to write a good hook, which they would hone and perfect in next albums.

Goodbye To You: Fast drums. More 80s sounds. Goof, fast paced vocals and verse melodies. Blending of Marie and Per. You don’t get double acts like this anymore. A perfectly good chorus. I don’t remember this one, but it’s my favourite of the three songs so far.

I Call Your Name: Drums and funky bass and guitar. More atmospheric 80s stuff, that little burst of synth underneath everything else. The chorus is simple, just singing the title a few times, but I like the melodies. It’s another good one -no crap songs yet, not too much cheese to date things, the melodies could be transported into a more modern form and the songs would be as strong. No killer song yet, but consistently good.

Surrender: More twinkling. More 80s drums. More atmosphere. This one sounds familiar. Per leading the vocals for now. Guitar now and bigger beat. And now Marie takes the lead. The voices do compliment each other, even though for the most part they don’t sing together – each take their own section. I can imagine this playing over any number of 80s movies.

Voices: Synth. Lots of synth and keyboards and atmosphere. Rich in mood. Good bridge. Good chorus (both voices together). Why did so many songs in the 80s talk about ‘border lines’? This is another good song, though they missed a trick by not adding in one more melody in the chorus between the ‘ooh oohs’ – I can hear it in my head and it fits perfectly.

Neverending Love: Keys and 80s drums and muted guitar. The verses and bridge don’t really work, but the chorus is good enough. This one does sound pretty cheesy, even for me. Drums and overall sound changes in the middle instrumental section.

Call Of The Wild: Synths like a pan pipe, and you’ve guessed it – atmosphere. More frequently changing melodies. None of the melodies do much, the chorus puts in a decent effort but it doesn’t quite pull it off.

Joy Of A Toy: This is one I recognised from the title only. It’s a faster paced song compared to the last two, and those minor hooks work well – the ‘woo oh’ in the bridge for example, and the chorus melody is okay. There are moments in the synth intro which remind me of the desert levels in Mario 64.

From One Heart To Another: Starts like a ballad. Both singers together. Gentle. Synth, drums, and Per for the first verse. Now Marie takes the verse. Together for the chorus. All very nice. Of course it’s cheesy, but it feels genuine.

Like Lovers Do: Faster paced, sounds more fun and lighthearted. More sharing of vocal verse duties. Nice absence of drums for the pre-chorus. It’s fairly catchy, like a few of the others.

So Far Away: Last song. Slow. Moody. Uppy downy synth. Slow drum and some sort of sitar noise. Great chorus with great vocals. The verses aren’t anywhere near as powerful, but are possibly deliberately underplayed to heighten the chorus. What was that lyric? Matron. Marching drums.

All in all this was a better debut album than I was expecting. Like the four other artist I have covered so far in my main Nightman Listens series (Bowie, Jovi, Adams, Madonna), I was expecting this to be an average affair with only minor hints of what the artist would later produce. This has all the hallmarks of Roxette already in place, and while they would go on to write much bigger and better hits, many of the songs on this first album are enjoyable pop rock. This makes me more excited to see what comes down the line, especially when we listen to their biggest albums and of course those recent ones that I know nothing about. Let us know in the comments if you have heard Pearls of Passion and what your thoughts and memories are of it!

My Guernica

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

One of the better songs of its ilk on Know Your Enemy. The lyrics have a clearer target and the results are better. The music isn’t great, the mixture of organ and dissonant guitars manages to work against the odds, the vocals follow the scratchy low-fi nature of the sound to create an overall mess of distortion – I think it’s the melodies that save the day once more as the chorus feels jubilant and defiant. The song’s final minute is questionable, as we get a little vocal interlude followed by strange additional guitar piece – I’ll let you decide if it works or not.

My Guernica: 3/Good

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Misheard Lyrics: 1. I fear and hear more repeats

2. I’m going on to happy toast/toes

Actual Lyrics: 1. Appearing in more repeats.

2. Going on so happy and so loose.

Nightman Listens T0 – Bryan Adams – On A Day Like Today

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Greetings, Glancers! Today I listen to Bryan Adams’s final album of the 90s, and his last great success (at time of writing) – On A Day Like Today. I remember this one based off the power of a couple of its singles, which saw Adams branching out into unfamiliar territory – a pop number with a girl group singer and a dance influenced song, both of which I quite liked. Adams released two other singles from the album – the title track which I vaguely remember liking well enough, and another track which I don’t recall at all just by reading its name. That gives me pretty much 10 songs I won’t know, so lets get on with it.

How Do Ya Feel Tonight: A soft opening to the album, nice melodies and gentle building. Eventually a heavier guitar comes in giving things a boost. A good opening song which I didn’t know existed five minutes ago.

C’Mon C’Mon C’Mon: Starts atmospherically, merging intriguing guitars with the odd bit of studio trickery. Again the guitar and drums come in after about a minute for a heavier chorus. Two pretty good songs so far, this one in particular. Some backing, sighing vocals in the middle but I can’t tell if its Adams or a woman or a Spice Girl. Nifty key change towards the end, I’d say this is one of the best songs from Adams I’ve heard so far which I didn’t previously know.

Getaway: More merging of guitars with studio sounds and a funkier beat this time. It seems the whole album has a more dance or pop influenced production so far, and it has all been to its credit. This one feels like a standard country rock song with the twang replaced with mysterious clanging guitars and knob-twisting. Ahem. A good enough chorus but I don’t think I’d remember this one by the time the album finishes.

On A Day Like Today: Starting out like another typical Adams ballad this one benefits from decent melodies and the inclusion of strings. The chorus is a good one too, with subtle guitar parts and a few changes in melody to keep things interesting.

Fearless: Nice intro, not sure about the organ or the country guitar touches. I like the guitars, the verse, and again the production. Oh hey, good chorus too. Looking at the track list before listening I was worrying that they’d put the best songs in the middle and that there would be too much filler around the edges, but so far we haven’t even reached the big singles and there hasn’t been a bad one yet. This does tire a little before the end, but still good.

I’m A Liar: Big drums, and another slow to middling beat. I think the key to this album so far is that they’ve abandoned a lot of the cheesier sounding 80s rock that popped up frequently on Adams’s albums but didn’t work alongside the big singles. Everything here feels more on an equal level and they all feel they could have been singles, if not hits. Another decent chorus follows another good verse. This one does drag a little towards the end too.

Cloud Number 9: I can’t remember of this was the first single from the album, and I can’t be arsed checking, but I do remember this raising a few eyebrows upon release. The remix worked well, not sounding like traditional Adams with the electronic beats and lack of guitar. Melodically and vocally it’s all classic Adams and when you hear the album version you’ll see there aren’t really many differences. We have soft guitars here, pianos too, but the chorus is pretty much the same.Uplifting, happy, bouncy stuff.

When You’re Gone: This one raised a few eyebrows too. Never a fan of the Spice Girls, because why would you bethey never the less had some decent solo songs. Skinny Spice was the best (only) singer and her voice works well with Adams’s more gruff vocals here. But it’s all about the melodies – fun, light, and catchy as herpes.

Inside Out: More electronic style beats, and sounds like another ballad. I don’t think I’ve heard this before. Okay verses, a little plain, a little static, feels like it’s building something. No big chorus comes though, a chorus yes but it feels like an extension of the verse rather than a pay off. Thirty seconds could have been shaved off this boyo too.

If I Had You: A squiggly opening few moments gives way to verses with only a drum and swirling sound backing.The guitar comes in for the second verse, all the while Adams breathes through simple, inexpressive melodies – it’s another one where the difference between verse and chorus is negligible making it feel a little repetitive.

Before The Night Is Over: This one gets off to a faster start, a more stripped back foot tapping rock song which does have a more prominent chorus. Decent verses, but overall nothing you won’t have heard Adams do before. It’s glossy and clean and perfectly listenable, just a tad forgettable.

I Don’t Wanna Live Forever: More fast beats and organ backing. I believe I have heard this one before, but I’ve no idea where unless it appears on one of his Greatest Hits albums.This one falls back on the filler type tracks of his earlier albums, but it keeps from being completely average thanks to the fun vibe and crisp production. It reminds me a little of Foo Fighters. The ending is interesting though.

Where Angels Fear To Tread: It seems like we’re closing with another ballad. Good airy production again. Drums a little tinny, sparse guitar and piano, and is that some strings I hear? Nice melodies, good vocals. There are a few odd sounds fading in and out in the background. I think this one doesn’t make an immediate impact but I could see it growing on me and others after a few listens.

Overall I’m surprised at how consistent and good this one was. The second half does tail off a little but there aren’t any bad songs and fewer filler songs than what we’re accustomed to. On the flip side, there are fewer obvious big hitters but a number of the songs are just as strong as the more well known ones. A good effort to close out the 90s with, and from here I will be entering entirely unknown territory. I remember laughing when his next album, the one about horses was released, and sneering that it couldn’t possibly be any good. I think I maybe heard the main single from it… was there a single? Anyway, I’ll find out if I was wrong next time.

Let us know what you think of On A Day Like Today in the comments and where you rank it out of your favourite Bryan Adams albums.

 

Nightman Listens To – These Days – Bon Jovi

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s back to 1995 now, a year when Grunge was on the wane, Britpop was on the rise, and Bon Jovi were still riding high on the success of Greatest Hits album Crossroads and its two new singles Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. If those two songs proved that the band had the chops to continue through the turbulent decade, they needed to follow it up with a new album which could really drive that point home. These Days wasn’t as big a smash as the previous album, at least not in the US, but the band’s overseas powers continued and they had another big seller on their hands along with a string of singles. Looking at the track list there’s only three that I definitely recognize, though I assume I’ll probably remember one or two more once I listen. So far in this endeavour, Bon Jovi hasn’t done as good a job as Bryan Adams or Madonna at showing me new unheard gems, so maybe we’ll get one or two this time around.

‘Hey God’ starts with a distant drum. Then a voice. Then a crunching intro, rougher guitars and drums than we’re used to and an ever so slight country line in the mix. The drums step up a beat and the pace quickens for a thumping continuation. The pace and volume eases off for the verse, picking up again for the chorus as Jon belts out the words. I don’t think I’ve heard this one before, but it’s a good start – heavier and without the cheese and plainness which has so far plagued a lot of their album tracks. Though I see videos for this on Youtube, so maybe this was a single I somehow missed upon release. The vocals have a greater edge and don’t sound forced or growled for fashionable purposes. Lyrically it seems like it’s telling a story and the chorus hints at being influenced by the major grunge and alt-rock lyricists of the time. It probably doesn’t need to be over 6 minutes, but it doesn’t feel that long.

‘Something For The Pain’ starts with some sort of broken harpsichord wrangling before the main riff comes in. I do know this one, but don’t recall and particular fondness for it. Listening again now it feels like classic Bon Jovi – verses, bridge, and big chorus all mingling for attention. Te verse melodies are my favourite piece, the bridge feels a little average, but the chorus roars from the stereo and is sure to be another crowd-pleaser, even if it is a simple one. The middle section is a little bit different from what the band does, doesn’t work as well as it could have, but it’s not bad. Two good songs so far, and the two big hitters are up next.

‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ is the first ballad of the album. It opens with a soft touch and proceeds with a swaying last dance tenderness. This song has an absolutely fantastic bridge and the chorus is excellent too. The verses have that chatting over an empty beer glass quality, the lyrics punctuated with regret and nostalgic pain. The strings which come in are too low in the mix to make much of an impact – as much as I love strings I don’t think they are needed here. The song effectively avoids the cheese and is one of the band’s most effective ballads, and for my money one of their better songs.

‘These Days’ starts in somber form, with brilliantly evocative pianos and guitar – one of their best introductions, easily. The lyrics are good too, and once the drums kick in the Springsteen influence is plain to hear. The grunge influence is clear today, at least from the lyrical perspective – the emotion and wisdom therein perfectly suited to Bon Jovi’s musical style. It’s easy to forget that this one is essentially a ballad too once we hear the chorus, it’s a chorus as good as any the band has written and has a habit of taking centre-stage in our memories. I think this is one of their most emotional songs, and subsequently one of their best. Four songs in and this is as good a rock album as you’re ever likely to hear – can the rest of the album possibly live up to the opening?

‘Lie To Me’ start with Twin Peaks synth, always a good thing. More storytelling lyrics. Intelligent use of guitars. Ah yes, I have heard this before (once the ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ started I remembered) but there’s enough here that it feels new to me. It’s another ballad, not as instantly catchy as the two previous songs but the ‘yeah’ hook is great and there are plenty of moments in and around the chorus which lift it above the average. Another good song then.

‘Damned’ starts with more spoken parts. There’s an unusually funky riff for the band, not quite Chili Peppers, but something you wouldn’t expect from the band. Then we even get trumpets in the chorus. It’s a step down from the previous songs, but there is enough sport and fun and invention in this one to stop it feeling dull. There’s a kick-ass solo too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Possibly worth shaving thirty seconds off.

‘My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms’ is one I thought I may have heard before, based on the name. Listening now, I don’t remember anything about it though. It feels like a darker ballad – that grunge influence again – even the guitar tone feels an awful lot like Alice In Chains in places. Nice avoiding of an obvious chorus there – it’s more obvious next time around, but still unusual enough that it doesn’t feel traditional. Heavier guitars come in eventually to give an unexpected oomph, followed by a decent, almost poignant solo. The song continues in this fashion for another couple of minutes, rounding out another strong effort.

‘It’s Hard Letting You Go’ starts with more synth, more ghostly than the Twin Peaks stuff, but with a similar vibe. Is this another ballad? More good vocals, more thought over the lyrics and construction than they have shown on previous albums. It’s certainly slow and littered with sadness which seems genuine, can’t believe I haven’t heard this one before. It feels like it’s retreading a lot of what they covered on Bed Of Roses – to the point that some of the lyrics and their delivery are almost identical, but it’s still another very good song. The momentary string bonuses work well too. I have to say this has been an unexpectedly fantastic album so far, I was genuinely concerned by the lack of recognizable names on the track list before starting, but safe to say this is their best album so far – lets not throw it away on the final few tracks!

‘Hearts Breaking Even’ starts with a mid tempo, mid volume before falling back to ballad levels. The verse is slow and simple, the bridge is pretty great, but the chorus doesn’t quite match the build up. The chorus is fine, but it feels very familiar even though I’m pretty sure I haven’t actually heard this song. Maybe it’s one more slight ballad too many on an album which has shown that it has much better ones. Still, that bridge is good enough to sell the song, and undoubtedly plenty of people will love the chorus. Some funny scratchy vocals near the end.

‘Something To Believe In’ has a stumbling drum intro followed by piano and bass and shouts. Again it all feels so much more well thought out than their previous album tracks. There’s a leisurely maturity to the song, a confidence that suggests the band have been writing at this quality for years when in truth their singles had been vastly superior to their standard album tracks. It’s another terrific song which continues to build upon the early laid foundations – I love songs which continue to build upon the same idea or riff or melody. There’s a bizarre drum and bass freak out in the middle too, another sign that the band were just throwing ideas against the wall to see what would stick, and surprisingly so far most of them have.

‘If That’s What It Takes’ opens in uplifting fashion, guitars bouncing jovially and fading easily to an effective verse. Yet again the songwriting is strong, the melodies run evenly through equally good bridge and chorus. It’s quite difficult writing these posts as I listen for the first time as I keep wanting to simply listen to the songs and not worry about typing random first impressions. Funny effects on the voice and guitars etc. Again the little experiments, the little additions of strings, the subtle things all pay off. No complaints.

‘Diamond Ring’ has slow guitar and bass and a very familiar melody. Where did they rip this off from – it’s on the tip of me tongue. It’s all very nice again, solid vocals and melodies, good acoustic sound and playing, and a fine closing song to an album which more often than not treads into dark places.

Finally! As mentioned in the intro, the other artists I’ve been listening to long term on the blog have fared a little better in their hidden gems with Madonna making a couple (so far) of fully coherent and strong albums. With These Days, out of nowhere Bon Jovi have crafted what is presumably their masterpiece – and they did it without a truly massive hit on the scale of Living On A Prayer or Always. That said, the singles I knew of beforehand are as good as ever but the songs around it are of a consistently high quality – at this point in my run through I didn’t think they were capable of it, especially considering that this is the last album in their classic period. It would be five years before they returned in a new century, and a new millenium with Crush – an album I remember being labelled as a comeback. It seems that label is not accurate as a comeback usually assumes that they previous work was maybe not up to scratch. This however is an album to remind you why you fell in love with the band in the first place and I’m now looking forward to Crush because of it.

What are your thoughts on These Days? Is it one of your favourite albums or have you dismissed it simply because it is Bon Jovi? Let us know in the comments!