a-ha - Lifelines (WEA)
The producers of such fine electropop classics as 'Take on me' and 'The sun always shines on TV' are back. Unfortunately, Morten, Mags and Paul have grown up and have gone all mature; and it shows in their music. The trick with great electropop is to sound casual, but avoid being so throwaway that people don't remember your songs. A good beat and a cracking synth line, with smart lyrics, tuneful vocals and a sharp hook are what's needed, alas, this album has too much focus on Morten's voice and has forgotten everything else.
'Lifelines' is a strings-filled ballad, 'You wanted more' is a more emotive, hard-hitting ballad, with more strings, tho' it does get a bit funkier towards the end, but alas, it's followed by 'Forever not yours', a ballad, 'There's a reason for it', another ballad, and 'Time & again', another fucking ballad! There's only so much of this shit you can take without wanting to hit someone!
Thankfully, a reprieve is granted by the nicely bleepy piece of electronica that follows, the funky 'Did anyone approach you?'. 'Afternoon high' is a light, summery piece of pop fluff, totally inoffensive, while 'Oranges on appletrees' has a bit more bite, more of a powerhouse electro mixed with strings sound.
Alas, 'A little bit' brings the tempo back down again and by the time the vaguely Beatle-ish 'Less than pure' limps in, all interest is completely lost. This Norwegian threesome, who made such great music in the 80s, has mistaken maturity for being boring and, apart from a few specs of gold in the dirt, have produced one of the most unadventurous and tedious albums of the year.