a-Ha - Foot of the Mountain PDF Print E-mail
New Albums - Commercial Pap Albums
Written by Mojo Wellington   

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For a long time reviewers were seemingly incapable of saying anything positive about a-ha, unless it was in relation to Morten Harket’s cheekbones. 

That started to change when A-1 released a rubbish cover of "Take On Me" and journos began to dust off their copy of "Now Whatever It Is".  But the real turning point came when inexplicably popular bands like Coldplay and Keane began to cite a-ha as an influence.  And when the band was name-checked by U2, suddenly music journalists began to reappraise the group and realise there was more to a-ha than a rather naff name, cheekbones and THAT video.  a-ha’s musical credentials were cemented when it transpired that Graham Nash had sung backup on the album Analogue.

a-ha always had this ability to deliver a good tune, but for every "I’ve Been Losing You", a "Maybe Maybe" lurked around the corner.  But after a hiatus in the ‘90s, the band showed increasing maturity on the albums "Minor Earth, Major Sky" and particularly, "Analogue".

"Analogue" was significant in that all members of the band made meaningful contributions to the album, albeit sometimes with a little help from their friends - and this was largely achieved independent of each other.  For keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, this arrangement seems to have worked well, with Mags producing very strong material.  I seem to recall an interview with Mags around the time that "Analogue" was released in early 2006, in which he was asked why he didn’t really write with guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy any more.  Mags said that in the early days he’d come in with bits and pieces and his colleague would take them off him and finish them off.  It was never a truly collaborative process and he always felt a bit uncomfortable bringing an idea for a song to the party.

It’s ironic then that "Foot Of The Mountain" - a more collaborative effort than previously – hasn’t exactly led to the musical results one would hope for.  After the inital burst of retro synth, the album soon settles down into the pop balladry for which a-ha are renowned - the sort of sounds the band could churn out in their sleep.  And therein lies the problem; there is nothing about this record that particularly makes you stand up and take notice, except to note the times the band seem to have borrowed from themselves – the title track pays homage to "Celice" from the last album, "Sunny Mystery" to "Don’t Do Me Any Favours" (another recent tune) and "What There Is" starts off like a cleaned up demo of "The Sun Always Shines On TV", before settling into something akin to "Quiet Town" by Josh Rouse.

There are musical nods to other artists, too.  The piano-heavy melodies suggest that a-ha are now being influenced by the bands they influenced in the first place.  And while the opening of "Nothing Is Keeping You Here" invoked a warm feeling as it brought back memories of Fred Neil’s "Everybody’s Talkin’", I couldn’t help but feel that there really wasn’t much keeping me here at all .


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