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!

Lykke Li: Youth Novels

Sweden has produced it’s fair share of musicians known world wide, across a wide array of genres. Metal fans will know that In Flames, Candlemass, and Opeth are among the genre’s most respected acts; Recently, The Hives became a famous international rock/pop band, preceeded by the likes of The Cardigans and Roxette. Many popular bands then, with a wide variety of sounds, and that’s without even mentioning Abba. If anything can describe Lykke Li’s debut, it is diversity- of sounds, of genres, of emotions. This does not work for the better at times, and although as the singer admits herself, that her life is a mish mash of moving and changing, the listener may wish she would stick to one genre and work at it- because all these pieces, this time, do not make a whole. Experimentation is wonderful, but perhaps Lykke should experiment with different sounds over the course of different albums, not squeeze it all into one.

That said, it is clear that most people will see this as a pop/dance album. The problem here is that there is no stand out dance track a la Robyn, which will blast through clubs this summer. On top of that, the melodies in her more pop sounding tracks are not memorable enough to dent the UK charts. The best songs here are the more tender moments, where the honesty shown in every song is pushed to the forefront. These songs have sparse and soft melodies, plenty of pianos, strings, and unintrusive beats. Lykke’s voice on these songs is another strong point, carrying the emotion wonderfully. At times though she can let her voice become too child-like, edging awfully near to ‘i’m so helpless and weak and rich, please save me’ territory. On the more upbeat songs, another annoying vocal trait can be found- the clipping of ‘t’ sounds at the end of words as if she is trying to sound like Lily Allen/Kooks/Libertines/any other desperately irratating ‘act’. Luckily, this does not appear often.

The album starts out promisingly enough, with a swirling growing melody with ‘Melodies And Desires’, which almost sounds like it could burst into an epic. For better or worse though, this is restrained, and the song fades out. The lyrics in the opening track can be echoed throughout the rest of the album. A sadness, a wish to feel part of something or someone, being in or out of control, love, dance, music, along with the ever so subtle hint of irony. ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ has as good a chance as any to be her big hit, her voice acting as the lead instrument for the first half of the song, singing about a love of dance which gives freedom. I’m Good, I’m Gone sees Lykke Li doing her best sexy/sultry routine, with good results and a catchy enough chorus. Little Bit is a touching song, sung with yearning, although again with other tracks the repetition of lyrics can become annoying. Hanging High sounds at times Oriental and Caribbean, while Compalint Department sounds like it should be played on a catwalk. Times Flies and Everybody But Me are other tender higlight, while This Trumpet In My Head may be her best, and most understated track. Dusky vocals, harsh and witty lyrics, and with a definite Good, The Bad, And The Ugly feel to it.

So after all the hype of yet another myspace artist, we are left with an album which will no doubt do well in the charts this year, but for the same reasons why other acts do so mysteriosly well in the charts- Lykke Li has the sort of sound that Top 40 listeners will love- it’s harmless, doesn’t say a lot, and will be forgotten quickly. However, unlike the countless other talentless indie guitar bands, pop laydees, R’n’B nobodies, and Brit-School dumb wanabees, Lykke Li has potential. She has made this album herself, she has a good range of tastes, strong sense of humour, and hopefully in years to come we will see her talent mature. Unquestionably, there is something good here. Whether she is happy to pander to Radio Uno listeners, or wishes to progress as a genuinely forceful artist remains to be seen. Let’s hope she chooses the latter; the world needs more intelligent pop.

Youth Novels