Wipe Off The Dust: Lookin' Sharp With Roxette

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Know what a "straight throughsie" is? *pulls out the Audio Diva Dictionary* A "straight throughsie" is an album that pretty much I could leave it on and play it straight through, barely skipping any song. There are a few (okay, count maybe about 40) albums in my collection I can do that with, and Roxette's 1988 sophomore album, Look Sharp! is one of them. Shocked? Don't judge to the quick!

Recently, I re-discovered Look Sharp! from the Swedish bred band, played it and was kind of in awe at how well it held up... nostalgically. It is BIG 80's personified. BIG synths, BIG guitars, BIG ideas. It is as sleek as a pressed suit on a big wig yuppie with a corner office. In fact, this whole album plays like the backing music to an 80's movie of John Hughes proportions. Still, that is okay, because the album captures that time span where drum machines were stark, synths were brooding in the background, and sax solos wiggled their way in to mash together and make some mighty fine and infectious tunes that will be stuck in your head for days. Swedish pop tends to be like that, just look at ABBA, Ace of Base and Robyn for further proof. I'm seriously convinced that there is some mythical element that the Swedish lace their audio tapes with in order for us to be truly captivated by their pop tuneage no matter what music genre you listen to. 

Roxette are sort of that acceptable guilty pleasure, well, in America that is, because we always tend to be pop prudes. Elsewhere Roxette are sort of demi Gods to the pop-rock genre, and this assumption comes from me having a European roommate in college who worshiped at the alter of Roxette members, Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson. We may not have agreed on whose turn it was to take out the garbage, but we did agree that Roxette is a fabulous pop band.

Everyone's first introduction to Roxette is most likely through their massive #1 hit, "The Look". Sadly, I heard this song done first through a Barbie & Friends CD (I was about five, okay) so I'm used to the lyrics being altered for G-rated ears because Roxette's lyric "tasty like a raindrop" was hardcore or something. Of course the original is better with that kick starting guitar jangle ushering you in and then the driving synth beat keeping you on your toes. This was a monster tune for the group which ultimately gained them worldwide exposure after being Europe's pop secret for awhile. Plus, you can't tell me the that is the best usage of "na-na-na-na" you've ever heard in a song?

"Dressed For Success" was the second single, and while it didn't gain Top 10 success like it's predecessor, it is still a finely tuned pop jaunt. Melodic stimulating and even better live:

Roxette are big on ballads and I'm a right sucker for them due to Marie's vocals. Before they hit a jackpot with 90's A/C staples like "Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave)" and their Pretty Woman soundtrack contribution, "It Must've Been Love", Roxette scored their 2nd #1 hit with their 3rd single, the gorgeous "Listen To Your Heart". 

The filler strangely makes Look Sharp! even more delectably satisfying, as you get a full course meal, not just snacks and some crumbs. "Sleeping Single" (my personal favorite), "Dance Away", "Paint" and "(I Could Never) Give You Up", are just a hearty as the singles and in fact hold up a tad bit better than some of the singles. They must have had a hell of a time trying to pick singles as most of the tracks off this 13-track set were worthy of some chart action.

The final single to be released from the Look Sharp! project, "Dangerous", missed the #1 mark due to Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat's "Opposites Attract", and not to knock Miss Abdul, "Dangerous" is the better song, by far..and it didn't have to feature a cartoon rapping cat.

From Look Sharp! Roxette formed a career that is still in motion today, thanks in part to their follow-up, 1991's Joyride, which sort of solidified things for the duo. While Joyride and later albums by Roxette are equally as enjoyable, there is something about Look Sharp! that hits the mark for me and embodies that late 80's pop spirit perfectly.

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