Old Bands, New Music

As 2020 draws to a close, I am reflecting on the fact that there were new albums featuring all four of my favourite bands: Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Berlin, Pet Shop Boys and Roxette. The nature of these albums was very different and may point to future possibilities for at least some of them.

As I mentioned in my post about the book “Nasher Says Relax“, there have been some new remix albums by DMC of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The band members have no input in these albums – these are DJ remixes. The quality varies, but it’s great to have “new” music featuring Frankie. Some of the remixes are very much in the Frankie style – others are more standard DJ mixes. But, on the second volume (there have been three to date, with two coming out in 2020), was one of my favourite tracks of the year – a great mix of “Relax” with “Don’t Break My Heart” by Dua Lipa. The DJ had also shared a video version on a Facebook group earlier in the year which was also great.

While the Frankie CDs were new in the strictest sense since they weren’t actually done by Frankie, the same criticism couldn’t really be made for “Strings Attached” by Berlin. As I suggested in the post about the album, this is not so much a remix or greatest hits album, as the natural evolution of these tracks and should be seen as an album in its own right. In that respect it was very much a new album, and, of course, comes on the back of the wonderful “Transcendance” that came out in 2019. It’s great that Berlin continues to make new music.

When it comes to new music, however, there was no doubt that “Hotspot” by Pet Shop Boys was completely new. It’s amazing how they keep producing new music – as well as finding ways to rework their classics, particularly when live. One of the disappointments of 2020 was their concert in Cardiff was postponed – but at least that gives something to look forward to in 2021 (hopefully). As for the album, it was a wonderful addition to their catalogue.

Let me now turn to “Bag of Trix” by Roxette…

Roxette have always been one of my favourite bands, and I was fortunate to see them in concert twice (one in Birmingham in 1991 and then in Amsterdam in 2015). With the tragic death of Marie Fredriksson in 2019, I couldn’t imagine there ever being more music from Roxette again. In 2020, I started listening to some of Marie’s solo work, Per Gessle’s solo work and Gyllene Tider – all of this was, at least, new to me. I particularly enjoyed Gyllene Tider, but none of the solo or other group work comes close to Roxette, which really seemed to get the best out of Marie and Per. It would be a shame that there would be no new Roxette music.

And then “Bag of Trix” came out (and I got it for Christmas, about a year after Marie’s death and shortly after long term drummer, Per “Pelle” Alsing died). This is a “new” album, but also familiar in other ways.

The title of the album is really appropriate – it’s a real mixture of things and surprises. From what I can tell, some of the tracks may have been available, at least if you had the right connections, elsewhere in the past. But for the average fan, this was the first time to be able to get your hands on these tracks. All 47 of them. As there are so many, I’ve not had a chance to listen to all of the tracks more than a couple of times. A few things stand out though. First, I love it that it was Per who worked on this. This is not a record company trying to get more money out of Roxette fans by merely releasing what they have in their vaults. This is about giving the fans a new Roxette experience and Per ensuring it’s done to the right quality. He backs this up with adding comments about each track in an accompanying booklet (and I love his modesty and honesty in those comments). I wish more acts would do this and whether to have something equivalent to this in my book about Frankie Goes To Hollywood (Frankie Fans Say) is something I am still toying with. So far, I am particularly enjoying the Spanish versions of some of the Roxette songs – despite not being able to understand any Spanish – they just work with Marie’s voice. As I continue to learn some Swedish, I also like the Swedish versions of songs too.

With “Bag of Trix”, there is a lesson for record labels and other bands about how to treat their archive of recordings. Let the band back in (perhaps with some fans) and let them work on it, do some additional production work as necessary, and then release it. Don’t just release things as they are, be sure to look for additional ways the band can contribute.

In a final word on the new Roxette album, the timing of its release was also ironic given that I was just finishing off my third novel, FOUR, for reasons which will become clearer in due course, but can be seen from the post I did about editing the book. See also FOUR and its Swedish Links.

Click here to get more information about Bag of Trix on Amazon.

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