Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mm-hmm, they're still here

By d-mac
Remember a-ha? You know, that New Wave band from the 80's who had that Take on Me song with the cool rotoscoping animation effect in the music video? Sure you do. They were doing that whole "We're from Norway" thing before it was in. Nowadays it seems that every crooning Scandinavian and their mother has a band that's taking the indie music scene by storm -- Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience, Sondre Lerche, to name a few. More on these guys later. But, a-ha. What happened to those guys? The pioneers.

Well I'm glad you asked. Turns out, they're back. Well, they've been back for awhile now. Okay, they really only broke up for about four years in the mid-nineties, reunited and have been releasing albums every few years ever since. The real question should be, where have we been?

A couple of months ago my mom was in town visiting for a few days at my brother's house up in the 'burbs, and she brought Christmas presents with her that my cousin Marit had sent from Norway. I got a cool little Julenisse candle snuffer and a copy of a-ha's latest release, Analogue. When I first unwrapped the CD, my initial reaction, to be honest, was "these guys are still around?" but I curiously popped the disc in my car stereo and listened to it from beginning to end on the album-length drive back into the city.

The simple driving guitar hook and persistent, thumping bassline of the first track, "Celice" captured me right away.* I immediately recognized Morten Harket's voice, maybe a little more seasoned than twenty years ago, but still distinct, as he delivered the song's mantra, "Celice, It's in the way you hurt me... I know that I'm alive... You sharpen all my senses... I know you're on my side." The next few songs were equally as accessible, but this album was going to take a few more listens to really sink in.

So I picked up this disc again a couple of days ago and decided the time was right for further contemplation. I flipped through each track, trying to pick a good one to post on this here blawg. "Celice" seemed too obvious, too first-songy to post. "Analogue" was another candidate, but a little too, I don't know... title-tracky. It wasn't until track 9 that I found my sleeper song:

a-ha - A Fine Blue Line

Magne Furuholmen sets the mood in the intro with his delightfully crunchy electronic tip-taps that remind me of what I love so much about The Postal Service. Paul Waaktaar-Savoy joins in a few bars later on the acoustic guitar shouldering Harket's delicate vocals. The narrator is pensive as he addresses a past love and tries to make sense out of the whole mess, maybe shed some light on a few of life's heavier where-did-things-go-wrong, why-do-people-drift-apart sorts of questions. He may suggest these questions, but he doesn't pretend to know the answers, and I like that. "Time marches on ahead," he concludes, "one day you'll see it, love is a fine blue line running through it," and the violins come in to reassure us that everything's going to be okay.


* Lamkini Footnote: Yeah, D-mac and I were talking one day right after he scored this CD, and he was like, "Dude, you know what kinda kicks ass that you wouldn't think does? The new a-ha CD." I seriously thought I was being punked or something. But he let me listen to Analogue, and it really does kick ass. "Celice" is such a standout song. In fact, the first four songs are just plain kickasstastic. Why go on and on about the new a-ha record? Well, there are so many formerly amazing 80's bands who make these "comeback" records that are just plain shit (see basically any Hall and Oates recording after John Oates shaved off his mustache). It's great to see an exception.


Blogger Ginger said...

Okay, so I listened to this track you posted are right! This isn't bad at all! I'm no music know-it-all, but it reminds me a a mix of Radiohead and Tears for Fears.

6:10 PM, March 27, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

Never underestimate a trio of Norwegians.

Thanks for listening!


11:45 AM, March 28, 2006  
Blogger newwavegurly said...

I'm going to have to check this one out. It's kind of nice to hear that an 80s band isn't just reuniting for the dough (or after appearing on a "Where Are They Now?") special.

Thanks for the info.

10:08 AM, March 30, 2006  

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