1991's Joyride is Roxette's most successful album, and was the band's first almost total success. The new emphasis on guitar driven pop tunes and the multiple vibrantly composed ballads come together to make a brilliant album that deserves its place in pop history.
There is very little that is wrong with the Joyride album. Six of its fifteen tracks were released as singles - three pop tunes, three ballads - and of the entire album there are only a few truly weird songs.
Unfortunately it coincided with Per's excess make up period and there was a forced Circus motif, but you can't win them all.
The opener was, of course, the ubiquitous and titular song Joyride. Filled with whistling and guitar riffs, it's a very simple tune. Inspired by a note that his wife Åsa left on his piano that said "Hello you fool, I love you", Per wrote this song in one wild free flowing session. The gist of the song was simply that love is just one long joyride - an idea that Per stole from Paul McCartney, who said it of writing songs with John Lennon. Per did not want to make it the album opener, but Marie insisted and a legend was born. The abstract nature of the lyrics was accompanied by a seemingly random video clip that included Marie lip-synching to a piano - Roxette at their craziest, but also truthful. The idea that "we're all magic friends" is conveyed with much conviction.
The fast and agressive Hotblooded, with music written by Marie herself, is a real album starter, although the song's attitude is far more important than the lyrics. Dominated by bizarre metaphor and the oxymoronic message of "I'm fierce and independent, I don't take orders from anyone and I need your love." It's best not to worry about these things.
The album's pop is some of Roxette's best work: fiercely catchy and with an emphasis on guitars. The Big L. featured some of Marie's most soaring pop vocals ever and summarised the Roxette pop ideal: simple but effective pop. Small Talk, lyrical partner to this week's featured Church of your Heart, is a song that does not treat love as something grandiose, but rather as something far simpler. The song is followed by the marginally embarrassing Physical Fascination, which uses surprisingly clean metaphors for sex (surprising in particular because Roxette's recording studio is called "Tits & Ass").
Knockin' on Every Door could almost be written off due to its indescribable sidetracking, but it has a somewhat catchy chorus. It is also one of Roxette's most cruel-hearted pop features. I remember you is a great song that is slightly let down by its intro featuring music reminiscent of jumping kangaroos.
Also inexplicably, Pearls of Passion's Soul Deep makes its triumphant return in a rerecorded version.
That's to say nothing of the ballads, which come out to shine. As usual, the Ballad arena is dominated by Marie. The leading ballad is Spending My Time, a song of which Per said "The way Marie sings this song makes me proud of being part of this band." It's a band favourite, and Per believed that it would have been their biggest hit ever were it not for their evil American record company (a battle that they would wage for the entirety of the band's American presence).
Fading like a flower (every time you leave) is notable for its wonderful section which sounds like Marie is taking time out of the song. It's a song that has many, many progressions and has been described by Marie as "the most American sounding song we ever did".
The simple and beautiful Watercolours in the Rain, composed by Marie and with a full string orchestra, is about resisting the temptation to run. It's a song about instigating change. It was followed by the dramatic (Do You Get) Excited?, a sensual song (partnered with a suggestive video clip) about understanding. And sex.
Perfect Day, the slowest of the ballads, closes the album with expert use of accordians.
The featured pop track this week is Joyride's sixth single, Church of your Heart. It didn't do much on the charts, but it is a personal favorite. Church of your heart is an incredibly simple song both in instrumentation and lyrics, with no gimmicks or any real hooks about it. It's a straight guitar song, which is why it works so well. Not much more can be said about it than that; it's a song that can simply be listened to and loved.
Things will never be the same is perhaps Roxette's most dramatic and action packed ballad, with a genuine sense of urgency about it and a great deal of movement. The guitars give a great sense of drama, and it is one of the rare two sided Roxette songs. Marie's part is about refusing to get back together with her abusive lover, and Per's part is that he really needs her.
"You've got the eyes of a child, but you hurt like a man - always do, always do ..." They can not change it back again. It's a great song about irreparable damage.
Joyride is without a doubt Roxette's most balanced and focused album; a real delight to listen to all the way through, and with few hallmarks of its time.
That it was incredibly difficult to choose the album's highlights speaks volumes.
Next week: Tourism, one of Roxette's most disparate yet tasty efforts.