Album Review by Mark Bayross
Those of you who thought that A-Ha had been forever consigned to the hell of eighties pop nostalgia would do well to note that since their ground-breaking hit TAKE ON ME (and even more ground-breaking video), the band have gone on to sell 36 million records worldwide and have played to a record-breaking audience of 200,000 people in Rio.
But Norway’s most famous pop exports are not ones to rest on their laurels. After 1999’s MINOR EARTH MAJOR SKY (incidentally their fastest-selling album to date), comes LIFELINES, a new collection of 14 perfectly-formed songs replete with that well-established Morten Harket swoon factor.
As this is their eighth album, it should come as no surprise that LIFELINES is the sound of a band with an established history and nothing to prove – there is little here to match spine-tingling songs like THE SUN ALWAYS SHINES ON TV. Morten Harket’s soaring voice is still as distinctive as ever, but many of these string-drenched ballads will be a little too MOR for synthpop fans.
Nonetheless, there are distinctive moments. The Beatles-esque melody of THERE’S A REASON FOR IT sounds very un-A-Ha, while there are hints of The Stranglers’ sense of offbeat melody on DRAGONFLY, and the funky DID ANYONE APPROACH YOU? and lush title track are stunners. Sure, there are twee moments (I doubt the John Miles-appropriated ORANGES ON APPLE TREES would have made it onto HUNTING HIGH AND LOW), but by the time the beautiful SOLACE fades out, they are more than forgiven.
When you add in the superb, bombastic YOU WANTED ME (one track that does come close to tingling the spine), the winsome duet with Anneli Drecker TURN THE LIGHTS DOWN, and the hook-laden single FOREVER NOT YOURS, you have enough attention-grabbing moments to commend the album.
You’ll need to give it a few listens, and occasionally make use of the skip button, but LIFELINES should please A-Ha fans and pop fans alike.