“Life is the dream that you wake up to
Dreams are the life from which you wake”
Same as with Tori Amos, I started following a-ha somewhere around 2000. It’s been a love-hate kinda thing ever since, as with all great bands I suppose. It’s been 4 years since they released a new record, so I’m very excited to hear all of Foot Of The Mountain and I’m looking forward to one or two gigs next year. I know of a few friends who’d hunt me down if I don’t review this one on my blog, so here goes!
The guys promised way before we heard anything of the new record that it would be much more old-style, more synths and electronics. I guess they kept that promise. They hired several producers this time, Roland Spremberg, Steve Osborne (Elbow, Doves, KT Tunstall) and Mark Saunders (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Bush). Turns out that they found a way back to some sort of harmony within the band while they picked up their 80s sound. Paul moved back to being the main songwriter, Morten to vocals and Magne to somewhere inbetween the two. Back to the roots.
It sounds corny, but we’re talking about three men that are completely different in every aspect imaginable and have had a great deal of issues towards one another. Which is no wonder considering their huge and very sudden success around the world back in the eighties. They were stuck with each other for years, while they were still growing as individuals; they were in their twenties at the time. It takes years to find some common ground again, I can imagine.
With the release of Foot Of The Mountain the guys appear to be very happy with themselves and their new musical collaboration. Let me tell you, that’s a very refreshing sight! The recording process of the past records didn’t go as smoothly.
Now onto the songs. The highlight for most fans is The Bandstand. In here Paul writes about his first trip to New York before a-ha became famous, hooking up with his girl Lauren Savoy. It definitely has the synths, there’s a groovy beat, a funkiness that we haven’t heard from the guys since the 80s. This is going to blow the roof off as a live song. Another epic track is Shadowside. They’ve already performed the song live before the record came out, but I have to say that I prefer the recorded version, mainly because of the beautiful string section arranged by Kjetil Bjerkestrand, a familiar name in a-ha land. The ending sends shivers down my spine.
Then there’s Riding The Crest. I have fond memories of this song, having witnessed the very first live version last year in the Royal Albert Hall in London. This song was also created out of the band’s wish to go synth and was the first sign to the public that the band was going to go down a new path. It’s a catchy, upbeat song, almost like a Take On Me of the 21st century. Single material for sure!
Talking about singles, the title track was the first to be released as a single. It’s apparent why the song was chosen, as it has a more commercial sound, it’s a little safer, more of the old a-ha. It would’ve done nicely on Analogue, but I’m not too impressed. I actually just checked the song credits and it finally makes sense. The song was partly created by Martin Terefe! (he produced most of Analogue)
A few songs that don’t get too much points in the fan community are Real Meaning and the album closer Start The Simulator. Real Meaning is definitely not the best song for me either. The chorus just doesn’t drag me along the way that Paul would want to. For this song I wish they’d gone acoustic all the way. There’s this lovely ending with an acoustic guitar supporting the last chorus. Start The Simulator probably has the weirdest lines I’ve ever seen. If you listen to it you won’t even notice the lines as much, thanks to Morten. A few fans commented on Morten’s ability to turn weirdness into something pretty and melodious, which is definitely why STS still works. “Switch to Omni Bravo – B bus under volt – Roll right to zero” doesn’t sound like something out of a song, but with a-ha you never know what you might stumble upon.
That is the beauty of a-ha, there’s always something unexpected around the corner. With Foot Of The Mountain they’ve proven that they still have the will to evolve and reinvent themselves. I suppose it’s giving hope to those that were ready to give up on the band, a fresh boost to admirers and a new insight to critics. Everybody wins!