Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Roxette: Look Sharp (1988)

This was many peoples first taste of Roxette back in 1988, written off by many as bubbly Euro-Pop Look Sharp is truly an outstanding album full of great beats and a wonderful mix of pathos and honest to goodness Pop.

The Look: Well known in the lexicon of Roxette is the track “The Look” a juxtaposition of harsh guitar and with Per Gessle leading and Marie Fredriksson backing the track kicks off the album brilliantly. Oddly I’ve always preferred Maries singing over Pers however in this case the track is an absolute win. Well structured with an inspired bridge section and dynamic ending the track leads perfectly into the strangely similar

Dressed for Success, of course its only similar on the surface. Again we are very strong with guitar but this track is much stronger on synth and lead is performed by Marie. Again the track is exceptionally well structured never becoming stilted or pausing too long on one style it rolls swiftly along and is other before you want it to be. Which is a shame as the following track really is a drop after two such strong starters.

Sleeping Single is slow, sultry and smooth using a combination of sax, guitar and synth. Lyrically it is quite strong but ultimately begins to feel repetitive rather quickly. This is a shame as the verses are well defined but the entire enterprise is let down by a rather poor chorus.

Paint is a rather strange song with some of the bizarre lyrics that Roxette seem to churn out. The Gessle based verses are rather cryptic but lead into the excellently sung chorus with Marie adding an excellent counterpoint to the track.

Dance Away is another weaker track that seems to epitomise Europop, again perfectly good but not a stand out track. We leave that for the one that is to come.

Cry is an excellent little pop ballad, almost a foreshadowing of the “Fading Like a Flower” that still stands out as a wonderful song today. Maries voice is perfect again but the song is badly hampered by overpowering backing tracks and would have been oh so more effective if it had been thinned down to give Marie a chance to truly shine.

Chances kicks of with aplomb and is a brilliant reminder that we are listening to a pop/rock album. Strange lyrics aside it a great wakeup call preparing you for the runup to the final tracks on the album.

Dangerous is a return to the form shown in the first through tracks with Per Gessle providing the lead and Marie backing excellently, the track is a joy to listen to with a perfect mix, the time, between vocals and music.

Half a Woman, Half a Shadow sadly fails to impact heavily. I cannot place what this song doesn't do for me but whatever it is ruins it for me. Perhaps it is the repetitive nature of the song but it leaves me cold.

On the flip side something works in A view From a Hill. Its not the lyrics, they again appear to have been translated by Google! Something clicks into place on this track, the saxophone is sparingly used but perfect where it does appear. Per and Marie work well together in this track also and I have always been fond of the way the track bleeds into its successor..

Unfortunately (I could never)Give you up really feels like a filler with a lack of vocal variety or lyrical variation it almost feel pushed in. This is redeemed by

The truly brilliant Shadow of a Doubt which has one of the best chorus arrangement so far from Roxette. Again that saxaphone shows up and makes a sneaky solo but the track itself it just a bite and feels oh so short. It leaves you wanting more. It would have been a good closer, but is topped with the final song on the album.

Listen to your Heart is a masterpiece. I mean that Shadow of a Doubt sets it up perfectly and it is a great reminder that Roxette are not just about Pop but at the heart there is a brilliantly talented duo. The song is beautiful and I am sure still provokes tears today.

Overall Look Sharp is an outstanding album. More was to come from Roxette and some truly brilliant tracks were yet to be recorded but in 1988 Look Sharp was one of my must have albums. I have bought it again since in the iTunes generation and I don't begrudge a penny. Take off your blinker and listen to some cheesy euro pop. You may just like it.

Paul Out….

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