a-ha – True North
While this band remained in existence years after their initial American success (1985) this new album finds the music has matured. It may sound the same but there’s more sophistication embedded in the lyrics rather than the youthful exuberance of “Take On Me.” And that’s a good thing because these guys aren’t that age anymore & must allow their music to develop as they did.
Morten Harket’s lead vocals are still vibrant, angelic at times, pure & articulate. On one of the singles “You Have What It Takes,” the conclusion in the video is a dramatic Viking funeral – where they send the deceased out in a small boat & light it on fire (cremation – old school). At least, that’s what it looks like to me.
This is their first studio effort since 2015 & the 12-tracks on their 11th album True North (Drops Oct 21– RCA/Sony Music Germany/Swinglong Ltd.) are indicative of the continued creative music of this definitive Norwegian band. No rough edges but excitement, no highbrow performances but a charged showcase & tenderly etched melodic lines. They are always fascinating in how they provide their imaginations to their musicianship.
This set is a bit more revealing for the band, highly personal, more affecting, with a glimmer of hope. I’m not surprised. This band was always a little more than just entertainment. However, the possibility that they believed their best days were behind them may have played a role in this challenge for new music & an accompanying film.
The 51-minute CD was produced by Magne Furuholmen (keyboards/guitars/bass/bgv) & Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars/drums/percussion/bgv). There are 6 touring musicians in a-ha.
What makes this band special is that they have their unique rock sound. As unique as The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, Rolling Stones & Beach Boys. Always expressive, vividly demonstrated & interesting. However, the ambition in spots may be lacking. This isn’t “Sgt. Pepper,” “Tommy,” or “Exile On Main Street.”
When rock music employs orchestrations, strings & a touch of progressive rock – it can teeter on pomposity. Little of that is evident here, thankfully. The music is well-shaped & enjoyable. Harket’s voice is the secret ingredient. That never falters. The majority of the songs are good listens but that doesn’t mean listeners will agree with every message being floated.
The equivalent to the classic “Take On Me,” will come with the absolutely excellent “I’m In.” Highlights – “You Have What It Takes” & “Hunter In the Hills.” The videos are all well-produced.
Color image by Stian Anderson. Find the a-ha CD @ Amazon & https://a-ha.com/music/albums/true-north-2022