An exhilarating, determined effort from the million-selling Swedes.
Chris Roberts 2011-03-18
With a Hollywood-like sense of triumph over adversity, Roxette return with their first album since singer Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002. She recovered, and the Swedish power-pop duo seems appropriately exhilarated.
Charm School is loaded with punchy, hook-riddled anthems that can only be described as absolute belters. From the opening surge of Way Out, a sonic sibling to Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll only even bigger, louder and dumber, this album consummately achieves its goals and then some. Resisting this tide of taut melodies, ringing guitars and precise production would take some doing. Seeing the title of first single She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio), your brain thinks, "That’s the most dreadful title since If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me," but your inner pop kid responds like a panting puppy to its unpretentious Donna Summer’s Love’s Unkind-meets-Xenomania chops. If they ever re-make Flashdance, and let’s face it we’re all praying for that day, this would surely score the key scene.
After a quarter-century of global massiveness, 70 million albums sold, Roxette know their way around an ABBA-esque structure and a heavyweight arrangement from the university of Alone by Heart. Speak to Me is a mid-tempo synth-based bubbler with a seductive verse and gigantic chorus. It’s more 80s than a Climie Fisher B side. No One Makes It on Her Own and In My Own Way take a breath and lurch toward sentimental balladry. Even so, it’s admirable how Roxette own their genre. Throughout, Marie’s vocals are rousing in a way that highlights how half-assed the current crop of teen Americans attempting this stuff are, and Per Gessle’s songs are laser-guided – although it’s a pity he occasionally sings, and has Limahl’s hair. On Dream On he emulates some nifty Byrds guitars. Finale Sitting on Top of the World will have you raising your lighter aloft, at least until you realise everybody else is raising their smart-phones.
Roxette don’t care if years have passed: they power on, a honed, determined joy machine.