Other Roxette albums: Look Sharp (1988), Joyride (1991)
Boy, talk about an album I never thought I’d like. I was vaguely impressed with Roxette’s first album Look Sharp, feeling most of its strength lay in the Prince penned single, "The Look," as opposed to the syrupy ballads and MTV ready pop clichés that seemed to fill out the rest of the collection. Thusly, when my mom (of all people) gave me a copy of one of their post Look Sharp CDs, Crash!Boom!Bang! I was dubious as to whether it would have much value in my life beyond being a paperweight or something I could guiltlessly destroy in a drunken rage (like Mickey Mouse telephones or baby ferrets.) But I’ll be damned if I didn’t go through a period in my life where the album became the pinnacle of my pop world and demanded nightly listens.
Roxette’s music is amusing on a number of levels; I’d like to clarify that point before I go any further. On one hand, they’re Swedes and like fellow Nords (Are Swedes Nords? Do I care?), ABBA have a certain naiveté about them. I don’t know if it’s just a stereotype, but most of those Odin-worshippers seem to stroll around wide eyed about a couple of things, one of them being American culture. ABBA’s love of American pop was clearly evident in their classical-music-meets-Beatles-harmonies. (Yes, I know the Beatles were Limeys, but they were adeptly reprocessing early American artists such as Elvis and the Everly Brothers so chill out.) Roxette show their due towards stateside artists with vague lyrical references to US iconography such as Harley Davidsons and Marlon Brando, as well the Supertramp-like pop sheen that resonates throughout Crash!Boom!Bang!. In 1994, when American artists were tossing out competent musicianship in favor of programmed alterno-rage, Roxette were unabashedly piling on 70 tracks of ornamental instrumentation to their music and augmenting them with disco-inspired symphonic arrangements (The sweet violin section from side 2’s "Do you Wanna Go The Whole Way" will take you right back to the 1970’s Village People film, Can’t Stop The Music.)
However, Roxette are not simply amusing for their foreign appropriation of American names and sounds. On a purely aesthetic level, they ride strong with genuine talent. The thing you gotta love about European artists is that they’re not afraid of the concept of melody. Granted, every song on Crash!Boom!Bang! sounds like it could have been written in the seventies, but it sure is catchy. The first side features several hook laden choruses such as "Harleys & Indians," "The First Girl on the Moon" (which I once heard being played in a GreyHound Burger King oddly enough. Well, maybe it’s not all that odd, but it seemed so at the time.) and the title track, "Crash!Boom!Bang." However, it’s the second side that really lays down Roxette’s claim to be counted amongst pop’s great meloditians (Yes, I know that’s not a real word, I just made it up. It’s like being an electrician with melodies.You and spell check can fuck off.) like aforementioned Beatles and Abba as well as The Police and pretty much anyone who ever worked for Motown. It’s not so much the pure melodies that drives side 2, but the utterly powerful and well thought out layering of the music that is applied to the tunesmithing. "I Love The Sound of Crashing Guitars" has a very restrained use of phase and flange effects to give it "floating" sort of quality as if one is lying upon the breasts of a very large women and feeling the ripples of flesh as her chest heaves and falls with each breath. "Do You Want To Go The Whole Way" brilliantly applies to production know-how of a 70’s Chic song to a 90’s style arrangement. The final three songs, "I’m Sorry," "Love Is All" and "Go to Sleep," are all slow orchestral numbers (at times seeming almost ambient) with dreamlike vocal arrangements (it’s in the school of vocal arranging Roxette should be considered Mr. Miyagis to the rest of the modern pop world’s Ralph Machios) Whereas many rock CDs seem to end with a bang, "Go To Sleep" explores the mellow end of rock music’s dynamic, repeatedly luring the listener to hypnotic drowsiness before crashing another wave of lush orchestration upon them. I dare say that this music is a far closer representation of the effects of heroin that the music of Alice in Chains or any number of acts that claim to be connoisseurs of the narcotic. (I guess it’s unfair to say "claims," I’m sure all those artists are filthy junkies, but simply being a pock mocked drug addict does not a musical genius make... much to the dismay of Spin magazine.)
You might be asking, "But what about the lyrics." Well, the lyrics suck, but so do 99% of all pop lyrics. Any fool that hasn’t resigned himself to that fact is living in a dream world. (If you can find anything of profundity in the music of Sugar Ray, Everlast or any of today’s second rate Dylans, please shoot yourself in the head before you reproduce.)
Strangely I still haven’t found the interest in picking up Roxette’s first album, Look Sharp. My gut feeling is that Crash!Boom!Bang! was more the result of happy circumstance than that Roxette are godlike songwriters. While McCartney had 20 good years and then sank into his long decline, Roxette seemed to combine their best work into one album and then vaporize (Crash!Boom!Bang! was, after all, the album that finished their America careers.) However, despite the fact that Crash!Boom!Bang! was neither hip, original or important, I highly recommend it.