Roxette - 'Charm School'

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Roxette - 'Charm School'
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A very good comeback album.

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' but 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, "A weird song title but great song nonetheless." After a quarter-century of global massiveness with 70 million albums sold, Roxette know their way around a good pop-rock 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 an REO Speedwagon B-side. 'No One Makes It on Her Own' and 'In My Own Way' take a breath and lurch toward sentimental balladry, but 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 still has his hair like Kajagoogoo, and on 'Dream On' he showcases some very nifty guitar riffs. 'Big Black Cadillac', with its great synth intro and massive hook and chorus,is another stand out track on the album and would have featured at the top of the European charts if it had been released 20 years ago. Next track on offer, 'In My Own Way', is a gorgeous ballad with great arrangements. 'After All' and 'Happy On The Outside' are great mid tempo offerings and the finale, 'Sitting on Top of the World', will have you raising your lighter aloft, at least until you realise everybody else is raising their smartphones. Roxette don't care if years have passed, they power on, a honed, determined joy machine, and for me this is a very good comeback album indeed.

Mark Warburton

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