12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
So more mature this time from the Norwegian "pop" trio, 25 Feb 2005
It is, in my opinion, rather a sad fact that the vast majority of people remember A-ha simply for one silly pop song, namely "Take on me" - this simply does not do justice to the Scandinavian trio, and A-Ha were for me - and still are - one of the most underrated pop/rock groups of all time - and just for the record, I always thought that "The Sun always shines on TV" was miles better than "Take on me".
Allegedly unhappy with the recording of their 1985 debut album "Hunting high and low" - (probably because of the constant tinny synthesisers and drum machine noises) A-ha knew they wanted to reach a wider audience than loads of screaming 11 year-olds.
This 1986 album was really the result of the lads branching out on their own for the first time, trying to find their own distinctive, mature sound, and believe me, A-ha always wanted to sound much more like The Doors than Take That, and their later subsequent albums do, I feel, reflect this.
"Scoundrel Days" is, I believe, a million miles away from the "Hunting High and Low" poppy debut offering.
Some of the material on offer has a much darker feel than "Hunting...", and the excellent "I've been losing you" (possibly the real standout track) is basically a murder song with an excellent bassline.
The opening track is also the title track, it really drops you in at the deep end straight away and makes you think "Wow, this is weird, nothing like the first album!" - this song is pretty haunting and mysterious as Morten Harket sings things like "Was that somebody screaming? - it wasn't me for sure, I lift my head up from uneasy pillows - put my feet on the floor.....cut my wrist on a bad thought, and head for the door...." and later on, "....their hands touch your body from everywhere ......I've got blood in my hair...", and strange things like that!
It's difficult to put into words quite how much more mature and un-poppy this album sounds in comparison to it's predecessor, although there are still catchy and infectious tracks that were highly suitable for radio airplay, like "Cry Wolf", (which people may remember as a UK top five single), and the highly amusing ditty "Maybe Maybe", which contains the immortal line "Maybe you were joking when you chucked me out the Rover at full speed....maybe, maybe".
Another track with a strange feel to it is "We're looking for the whales", if only for it's slightly unusual title.
A song which didn't do particularly well in the singles chart for A-ha was "Manhattan Skyline" (No 13, 1987) however do not be fooled by this "failure", this song is actually a corker, very atmospheric, and unless I am terribly mistaken, was probably highly influenced by a certain Beatles track from "Sergeant Pepper" - well, you listen to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" first, and then hear "Manhattan Skyline" - see if you can notice the similarities!
Another highlight is the catchy non-single "The Swing of things", and the album finishes with the beautifully atmospheric "Soft rains of April".
This album showed that A-ha were going in a completely different direction altogether, so please don't judge them by "Take on me" or their first album.
Judge them on this one, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and "Minor Earth, Major Sky" - two more brilliant and mature ROCK albums.
Morten's vocals were always superb, Pal Waaktaar was a songwriter of the highest quality, and Mags - well, Mags was just Mags really.