Review: “Analogue” by A-ha (CD, 2005)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2005 album Analogue by Norwegian group A-ha. Will this album be a beautiful aural experience, or sound like a noise from a string and two yoghurt pots? Read on…

A-ha - Analogue (2005) album cover
A-ha – Analogue (2005) album

This 13 track album opens with lead single Celice, a track that feels like it breaks away from the sound we all know them for. The racing beats and roaring guitars in the intro hint towards a harder sound, power and energy, but then it stands aside for piano and Morten Harket‘s unmistakeable vocals. The track isn’t actually as hard as it suggests it will be, instead it’s a slightly haunting and sad song.

Don’t Do Me Any Favours follows this, keeping the same tempo, and it is laden with shuffling beats and acoustic guitars. The track reminds me a little of Athlete, vocally and musically, and there are layers of long lingering ‘ooh’ and guitars. It takes a slightly angry ending before heading off into the distance.

This is followed by Cosy Prisons, which stood as the album’s fourth and final single, and the album’s second only track to chart in the UK. It reached #39. Piano and gently strummed guitars lead us into the first verse, where Morten’s vocals sound beautifully fragile, and these are complimented by harmonies from Paul and Magne. Eventually, a soft beat joins them, but by this time, you’ll already be in love with the song.

Chugging guitars lead us into title track Analogue (All I Want), which was the album’s third single, and this track gave the group their first top 10 UK hit (at #10) single since 1988’s Stay On These Roads. Maybe this was down to the collaboration with serial hit-maker Max Martin (Britney Spears etc) who is said to have been brought in and altered the track somewhat. The song builds up from menacing piano riff and guitar, to a bursting wave of A-ha that’s reminds me of the sound found in their later album Foot Of The Mountain (2009). Again I’m also reminded of the band Athlete.

Second single Birthright follows this, and this is a lovely piano and guitar-laden song. The gentle strumming of the melody carries Morten’s delicate vocals perfectly. The song builds up for the second verse, and is a wonderful sounding song. Shamefully, the track did not chart in the UK.

Synths and swirling haunting vocals lead us into Holy Ground. This is another slower track, seeing Morten, piano, and a simple beat. His vocals sound rich, soft, and wonderfully precise here. Again he’s joined by some lovely harmonies. This is a minimal song, and the result is a really nice wafting track.

The tempo picks up a bit for Over The Treetops, and they guys are joined by The Love Sponge Strings who throw in some well placed sweeping strings with fit the ‘over the treetops fly birds in the sky‘ lyrics of the chorus. It’s a welcome upbeat song, and a really nice fuller sound.

Halfway Through The Tour follows this, teasing a more rockier sound with the drumstick count in, and it certainly has a pace again with piano and guitars racing along. At times it reminds me musically and vocally of some of The Beatles mid 60’s tracks – one of those with lots of vocal harmonies and piano, but I can’t quite pinpoint which one. The song builds up nicely, continuing that race, and despite being a race, it weighs in at 7m 27s long – which I guess is lucky, given how long their tours usually are. It takes a really sleepy mellowed turn around the 4m 30s mark, and it should have ended just before this.

Eventually, that is followed by A Fine Blue Line, opening like they’ve borrowed Matmos from Bj√∂rk for some lovely distorted beats. Acoustic guitars accompany Morten’s vocals again for a slower song. It’s a really nice warm sound that slowly builds for the chorus, and The Love Sponge Strings return to support these drifting vocals.

Piano and strings begin Keeper Of The Flame, giving Morten another chance to show off his wonderful vocals. Some echoy synths join in, sounding like they’ve been borrowed from William Orbit. Still, Morten continues undeterred, allowing a wash of harmonies to help carry him through the rest of the track. Electric guitars strick a couple of chords in the mid point, and return for when Morten returns to lead us back to the final push before the end. It’s a nice drifty song with great vocals and lovely sounds.

Make It Soon follows this, and we’re back to strummed guitar, but joined by some simple distorted notes. Morten again takes the mic unchallenged before a drum machine partners with him for the second verse. Then, some angry flashmob electric guitars roar in for a few bars before heading into retreat before the verses.

Next up is White Dwarf, with Morten singing softly about the planets and the the vastness of the universe (yes, that kind of white dwarf). There’s some haunting guitar and synths and I guess that helps it feel like you’re drifting through space – it’s certainly a calm song.

The album closes with Magne Furuholmen taking the lead mic from Morten (he rarely has before) for the final song The Summers Of Our Youth. The result is a more raw vocal style, whilst the song builds from the gentle beat and piano, to a heavily distorted synth. Here, this change of vocal duties makes this sound a little bit like a track from U2‘s 90’s album Zooropa. Morten joins Magne for the chorus, and the contrast is wonderful – I think they should have done this trick more than once before.

Verdict

This album is one of those that sounds beautiful, is really easy to listen to, but in a way that you’ll probably not realise the passing of time. This album is the perfect companion to the later album Foot Of The Mountain.

Morten’s vocals are outstanding, and the many stripped back songs allow this to really shine brightly. The addition of Magne’s vocals for the final track really does add a welcome new vocal sound to the album, and he should take the mic more often as the contrasting style works well.

This album is sad, haunted, briefly at times it grows angry, but mostly it wafts and keeps quite reflective (see The Summers Of Our Youth as a prime example). I feel it takes this sad approach a little too often though, and with some more upbeat tracks – which we have known and loved a-Ha for in the past, I think that the group would have earned some more attention.

This album’s main issues is Coldplay and Athlete (at least), who by 2005 had both notched up many years of success. This means that they would have probably shone brighter than this returning ‘classic 80’s hits band’. This is unfortunate.

This album will be loved by fans, but massively under-appreciated beyond that.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 2005 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #24, certified Silver by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: 99p from a British Heart Foundation store.

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