A contemporary album that sounds as if it were recorded in the aftermath of Woodstock. That was this critic’s first reaction a minute into the opening track, She brings the sunlight. It’s what the song sounds like, with its wash of guitars (is there also a sitar lurking in the mix?) and gravel-like voice that compels one to presume it was recorded in a bathroom. Acting as a counterpoint to this Kulashaker-esque opening are the lyrics — at times melancholic (Don’t Stare At The Sun), at other times bucolic (Down in the Woods), sometimes focusing on sad lives at the periphery (Standing at the Sky’s Edge), and at other times almost cathartic (Leave Your Body Behind You).
What it leaves one with is a sense of wistfulness, which may be part of Richard Hawley’s master plan all along.
None of the tracks, bar one, are less than five minutes long. This lets the musicians churn out pulsating jams that sometimes sound as if they belong to a Phish concert. The star, as always, is Hawley’s writing. This is a man who, 11 years ago, had this to say on a track called The Nights Are Cold — ‘The fate of man is random so don’t look down, the towns and the cities are all burning down, your road is bitter like the whip off the wind, you wanna get to the end but you don’t know how to begin.’
He continues to channel that almost post-apocalyptic view of the world into songs like Time Will Give You Winter. Another winner, titled Seek It, sits pretty at the midway mark. ‘I had a dream and you were in it,’ he sings, ‘We got naked, can’t remember what happened next.’ There really isn’t anyone writing songs like this at the moment. Get it.
After a surprisingly long hiatus from the charts and our television sets, it seems as if Roxette feels the sudden urge to make up for lost time. This explains the appearance of a new album a little over a year after last year’s Charm School. It also seems as if Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson want to try and recapture the spark that made their last work about life on the road — Tourism: Songs from Studios, Stages, Hotel rooms & Other Strange Places, released two decades ago — so successful.
What they did back then is mix a bunch of new songs recorded while on tour with live versions of established hits. As a result, the ‘live & country’ version of It Must Have Been Love rubbed shoulders with Silver Blue as well as other live versions of hits like Joyride. Sadly, this attempt at repeating the formula isn’t as satisfying. For one, it features yet another live version of It Must Have Been Love, the only big blast from the past tacked on for some reason. That it still sounds great for a song now a quarter of a century old is beside the point.
Then there’s the new stuff. Some of it is fairly good, by Roxette standards. For instance, both versions of It’s Possible (‘Du du do do do do, got to write a tiny note to you. Du do do do do do, there’s something very difficult about you’) are admittedly catchy, while Touched by the Hand of God is possibly their best single in years. Then again, a track like Angel Passing — ‘she’s an angel passing through the room (Would you like to know her?)’ — simply ends up bordering on the cheesy.
Ultimately, it’s the duo’s obvious enthusiasm for what they do that saves the album.