1.) Have A Nice Day: Roxette
2.) Brothers In Arms: Dire Straits
3.) Under Rug Swept: Alanis Morissette
4.) Unorthodox Jukebox: Bruno Mars
Competition toughens up!
Round two is only 14 groups old but has already seen some strong groupings such as:
- Round 2 – Group 3 (Carpenters / Def Leppard / Maroon 5 / Enya)
- Round 2 – Group 4 (Beatles / Alice Cooper / Emelie Sande / Within Temptation)
- Round 2 – Group 9 (Birdy / Prodigy / Jimmy Eat World / Whitesnake )
- Round 2 – Group 12 (James Blunt / Eminem / Goldfinger / Roger Waters)
but then group 14 came along with Dire Strait’s multi award winning, 30 million selling behemoth 5th album being pulled out of the hat alongside chart-topper albums Under Rug Swept & Unorthodox Jukebox with Roxette’s bittersweet 6th studio album to boot.
In fact this is probably the strongest group we’ve had so far since I started the ‘competition’. I’m trying to think of any groups that had more quality than this.
Ironically Roxette have been involved in a few corking groups already, they previously went head to head with Dire Straits as Crash Boom Bang beat On Every Street in Round 1 – Group 37 and Have A Nice Day bettered Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time back in Round 1 – Group 50. Meanwhile Room Service knocked out Def Leppards’ Pyromania in Round 1 – Group 56 and Tourism out-did Dido and The Police in Round 1- Group 88 !
Actually, while we’re reminiscing, let’s take a detour through some of the strongest groups so far:
- Group 58 (Avril Lavigne / R.E.M. / Robbie Williams / Def leppard)
- Group 76 (Foreigner / The Corrs / Iron Maiden / Chris Rea)
- Group 93 (Pink Floyd / Michael Jackson / Roxette again!)
- Group 123 (Jimmy Eat World, Keane, Alkaline Trio & Bon Jovi)
- Group 134 (arguably the strongest up till this point feat. Paul Simon / Green Day / Gerry Rafferty / Lady Gaga )
- Group 181 (Chris Rea / Human League / Emelie Sande / Xzibit)
Women are from Venus, Bruno is from Mars
On closer inspection, the radio friendly and highly sexualised Unorthodox Jukebox is a fairly disposable album that satiates quickly. It has many layers of quality, all the modern production techniques keep it sounding ‘cool’ while it delivers catchy pop melodies framed by Bruno’s soulful heart. Bruno Mars is a stunning talent and tracks like Natalie, Moonshine and Money Make Her Smile sound great despite the dubious lyrical content. But the satiation is an issue. The first several times I listened to Locked Out Of Heaven, I thought it was fantastic. Now? I’m so over it. Don’t want to listen to it at all. The same attrition issue is starting to affect Gorilla too. Some music is like chocolate, too much and you’ve had enough but this album is more like pavlova topped with caramel and chocolate sauce, you lose interest after only a few bites. In a group as strong as this, Bruno finds himself well behind the curve.
I still think of Roxette’s 1997 effort Have A Nice Day as one of their more modern albums but man, this record is now over 20 years old! At the time of release I put this up there with anything they ever created. It’s been a long while since I took it for a spin but listening back now I can see why I was so enamoured by it. Polished, punchy elctro-pop rock never sounded so good than on tracks like 7Twenty7 and Crush On You while the slow and mid-tempo ballads each hit their mark too.
No Colour In The Printer
That opener Crush On You is a wonderful start to the album and features some fantastic lyrics, encapsulating an undulating off-balance feeling when in the swirls of obsession. That Gessle’s first language isn’t English and he invented these lyrics is a testament to his poetic and intellectual capabilities.
As you move through the songs the album barely relents, whether it’s the superb melodramatic Anyone or the beautiful saxonphone on Lucky, almost every track is a treat for the ears. That hook in Salvation stays with you long after the album has finished “You crashed by the gate, captured my fate” followed up by the little heartfelt piano-rift.
That Particular Time
Roxette’s romantical lyrics are a shining contrast with Alanis’s more gritty autobiographical stories on Under Rug Swept. Much like how I felt when Have A Nice Day first appeared, I became bewitched with Under Rug Swept when it first landed. Beguiled by its easy quality I ranked it as good as Jagged Little Pill, while not quite the lightning in a bottle of that debut, it definitely lives with it in terms of quality and craftmanship. I’m a big fan of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie too but we all know that that particular album strays here and there. Under Rug Swept is much tighter with basically no bloat and some pleasing heart-string-pulling piano-driven ballads like You Owe Me Nothing In Return and That Particular Time.
Folk and Grunge influences infect Alanis’s third stuio album throughout. Flinch is a Folk song masquarading as a Grunge song masquarading as a Ballad. Precious Illusions and 21 Things I Want In A Lover are par excellence and this still ranks as a cracking little album. I think I can tick off at least half of her list on that opener by the way. Granted, Alanis’s vocals can be shrill at times, (although she mostly sounds gorgeous here) and the end track Utopia is a bit kum-bi-ya. Truthfully, there’s barely anything between the top three albums here.
I Don’t Want My MTV Anymore
Back in Round 2 – Group 11 I remarked that Dire Straits had never made a bad record, actually I’d like to clarify that. Dire Straits didn’t make records, they made audio experiences and Brothers In Arms might well be the pinnacle of all the album experiences that they created.
It features the iconic Money For Nothing with a little help from Sting. “Money For Nuthin’ and your Chicks for Free” – that’s such a rock n’ roll lyric! It’s a track that clocks in at over 8 minutes, but then, when you’ve created a guitar riff as supreme as this, I guess you milk it for all it’s worth.
As you would expect from such an accomplished musician, Knopflers’ guitar dominates and drives just about every track, with the exception of the gorgeous sounding Your Latest Trick where that saxonphone takes over. It could be argued that this is the true centrepiece of the album.
Brothers In Arms is an album that feels grounded by Blues and Jazz and Knoplfer makes even the most atmospheric guitar piece sound like it has a pop hook, such as on the beautiful end track Brothers In Arms. Ride Across The River still mesmerises after all these years and Walk Of Life still works as a radio friendly single. On the first few listens I’d found it hard to believe that this album could be bettered and was the defacto victor in this group until I gave Have A Nice Day & Under Rug Swept half a dozen listens side by side along with it. Each one of these brilliant albums jostled for position and temporarily (in my mind) occupied the top spot but after weeks of mental grappling I’ve decided that Have A Nice Day sneaks first, Brothers In Arms sneaks second and Under Rug Swept gets knocked out (boo).