Roxette: Charm School

Uplifting comeback let down by stifling slickness.

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The TV comedians Armstrong and Miller used to perform as Scandinavian soft-rockers Strijka, a note-perfect parody right down to their wonky use of second-language English. Always a guilty pleasure, Roxette’s blustering attempt at widescreen jukebox Americana has some of the same appealing gaucheness.

Who could fail warm to a band whose hits collection was titled Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus!? One one level, at least, Roxette’s first new release in a decade comes as a very pleasant surprise.

After selling more than 60 million albums in the 1980s and 1990s, Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002, forcing her into semi-retirement. Happily, Charm School finds her duetting with guitarist Per Gessle with as much polished punch as ever.

Less impressively, these mid-Atlantic pop-rock anthems are resoundingly generic and impersonal, wavering between Bon Jovi-sized stadium-stompers like Way Out and cloying Scorpions-style power ballads like No One Makes It On Her Own.

It is heartening that these veteran Swedes appear healthy, but Charm School is simply too frictionless and focus-grouped, leaving scant room for the comically endearing Euro-clumsiness of yesteryear. Slick, but charmless.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.